In the last 15 months the Orland Fire Protection District has lost nine firefighters in different roles for a variety of reasons. Some have retired, others have been injured and others resigned under an array of circumstances, the most recent being former firefighter Dean Milenkovic.
The Orland Fire Board of Trustees approved in a 3-1 vote Tuesday night to add 11 more firefighter-paramedics to the district, upping the personnel numbers from 97 active firefighters to 108. The district’s Board of Commissioners has the final call and may convene in a special meeting before their next scheduled meeting in August to decide whether to move forward with the hires or not.
Orland Fire Chief Ken Brucki said the purpose is to keep 36 firefighters working each day, which will cut down on overtime and keep response times under 4 ½ minutes throughout the district’s area.
“This is my evaluation of our public safety needs and what we need to respond to an emergency with response time being the driver,” Brucki said, after Tuesday night’s meeting. “A lot of work was done for both studies, so they were looked at. Then it was done in real time. All of our data is off actual incidents the district responded to in the last two years.”
One of the studies Brucki referred to include staffing data presented by former chief Bryant Krizik at the April 26, 2011 meeting, where 11 hires were recommended. The board unanimously approved the measure at the time, though trustees Pat Maher and Bob Cacciato were outgoing after the April 2011 election, and when Chris Evoy and Blair Rhode joined the board in May 2011, the hires were suspended.
Another staffing study was performed afterward by the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association. Battalion Chief Raymond Kay, who served as acting chief for about a year after Krizik was leveraged into early retirement, requested in a tentative 2012 budget to hire six new fire personnel.
Since then, there has been no mention of adding fire staff in a public motion until Tuesday night.
According to board president James Hickey, as many as four firefighters are called in to serve overtime each day, which could cost the district about $2 million in overtime by the end of 2012.
“If someone else gets hurt, that number goes from four to five, and that $2 million can jump to $2.1 million quick,” Hickey said. “This came to the point where we had to act.”
Hickey believes the 11 hires would cost $700,000-$800,000 less than the current overtime use.
Hickey said he hopes the hires would come from the list of 11 firefighters originally approved by the board in April 2011. At the time, Hickey voted in favor of the hires, but noted more time to decide would have been preferable. He then voted in favor of suspending the hires after Evoy and Rhode joined the board.
The district’s human resources staff will contact the 11 firefighters originally recommended to see if they are still available, Hickey said.
Trustee Martin McGill praised the approval for new hires, and trustee Glenn Michalek also voted in favor of adding personnel.
“We’ve had a busy month-and-a-half,” McGill said. “You have fatigue and everything else. I’m just glad it happened.”
Trustee Blair Rhode voted against the new hires, and said later he wasn’t convinced that the proposed number of added staff was necessary.
Trustee Chris Evoy did not attend the meeting.
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