Firefighters with the Prospect Heights Fire Protection District responded to 2,722 calls last year, or the most in the 79-year history of the district. Fire officials say the number of calls has increased by 500% over the last 30 years.
Currently, firefighters are responding with a 30-year-old ladder truck, that is three times older than those in neighboring departments. The rig requires $30,000 in annual maintenance fees just to maintain it, but it has reached its end of life.
“Fire trucks and ambulances are very costly and see severe use with quick starts and stops,” says Prospect Heights Fire Chief Drew Smith. “Reliability is a must. Firefighters and paramedics are of little use if they cannot get to the emergency.”
Replacing the ladder truck as well as two 16-year-old ambulances, is at the top of the list of needs the district has identified in proposing a $10 million special referendum in April.
“The fire protection district does not receive any funding from the city of Prospect Heights,” Chief Smith adds. “The goal here is simple: maintain the service level taxpayers have come to expect.”
Another major need potentially addressed by the referendum is bringing the firehouses up to code, while improving living conditions to accommodate a diverse, full-time personnel.
“The firehouses are old, cramped and most importantly don’t have space that separates people to reduce the potential for illness transmission,” Chief Smith says. “Our personnel deserve modern, safe working conditions.”
The main firehouse was built 79 years ago, and had additions in 1973 and 1992. The referendum seeks to address essential repairs to the building and garage, as well as reconfiguring sleeping areas and shower areas, expanding the kitchen area to fit more than six people, and making ADA repairs.
The fire protection district has a proud history in the community, going back to 1948 when the original firehouse was built in the heart of Prospect Heights – for an all-volunteer crew. Before its construction, the two vehicles owned by the fire district were housed at the local Sinclair gas station.
Its two subsequent additions moved the fire station from its all-volunteer roots, to include sleeping areas for firefighters, expanded bathroom facilities, and a small fitness room and training area in the new partial basement.
More than 30 years later, with a record number of emergency calls from the community and mostly full-time staff in the firehouses, the need for upgrades and modifications has amplified.
“Today, the manpower is a constant seven personnel operating 24 hours a day, with areas for administration in the front of the station,” Chief Smith says. “There remains a constant struggle to maintain our facilities and keep them as up to date.
“We remain committed to carrying out our mission,” he adds,” of delivering exceptional services for everyone with courtesy, respect and empath
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