Peoria Fire Dept. faces delayed response times, hoping to secure grant to fund 11 positions

Published: Mar. 22, 2022 at 10:19 PM CDT
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PEORIA (Heart of Illinois ABC) - It’s been about four months since fire engine 2 returned to service in Peoria, after city leaders realized how much it was needed. Over the weekend a high rise apartment building saw a fire and engine 2 played a crucial role. Now, the union president says response times still are not where they should be.

“It’s kind of like playing scratch off lotto tickets. We’re scratching them off and hoping we win, but one of these days we’re not going to win and we’re going to come up short,” said Local 50 Union President, Ryan Brady.

Brady says the city is still struggling with fewer firefighters and the same amount of calls.

“Things haven’t really ever slowed down,” said Brady.

Over the weekend he says they spent about six hours fighting a high rise apartment fire downtown Peoria.

“That’s half the city’s resources to fight one fire in the city of Peoria and that went on for several hours,” said Brady.

He says their response times are better than what they were in October, since engine 2 was reserviced. But they are no where near the National Fire Protections Association’s standard.

“You’re supposed to in a normal structure fire in 8 minutes and 59 seconds have 17 firefighters there. We probably were close to accomplishing that with the Twin Towers, but when you go to the high rise structure, that number doubles,” said Brady.

Although, engine 2′s return has not solved the problem, that engine is fully staffed only when firefighters work overtime.

“It’s difficult to imagine not having engine 2 in service,” said Peoria Fire Department Interim Chief Shawn Sollberger.

Now, the city is working to secure a ‘Safer Grant’ to help alleviate stress on their firefighters.

“We’re trying to get through this difficult time right now, trying to get this safer grant landed as soon as possible to be able to hire 11 more people to relieve this strain,” said Sollberger.

The grant would fund those positions for four years. Sollberger says they are very optimistic.

“If we can get that and giving us four years of security with our manning where it’s at, we feel good with the Peoria Fire Department,” said Sollberger.

Brady also hopes the grant will help, but sees other issues.

“Trying to get the right people and the right resources and the right people at the table to fix the problem would be very beneficial,” said Brady.

Brand new Fire Station 4 is expected to open in about 30 days, which will close the older Jefferson Street location.

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