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updated: 2/7/2011 1:38 PM

Itasca fire chief to retire in March

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  • James MacArthur

    James MacArthur


So many things have changed since James MacArthur started his career as a firefighter 38 years ago.

Instead of strictly extinguishing blazes, many firefighters now double as paramedics, some boast specialties like high-angle or confined space rescue, codes are stricter and fire prevention programs are now the norm.

And MacArthur says those changes all add up to one major improvement: an overall reduction in fires.

So MacArthur will rest easier March 31 as he retires from his post as chief of the Itasca Fire Protection District, a position he's held for eight years after spending the prior 30 years with the Elk Grove Village Fire Department.

"It's the right time for me personally and professionally to call it a career," said MacArthur. "I just had my seventh grandchild born last Saturday, so I'd like to enjoy more time with them and do a bit of traveling with my wife."

The Itasca fire board has named Addison Deputy Fire Chief James Burke as MacArthur's successor.

MacArthur said he originally planned to work in Itasca for "just a couple years," but found himself always wanting to extend his stay at the district that covers 6.5 square miles of Itasca, Addison, Wood Dale and nearby unincorporated areas.

The reason, he says, is due to the hands-on approach he could take in the small district of just one firehouse and 26 sworn personnel -- a far cry from the four fire houses and nearly 100 personnel MacArthur managed in 1988 when he became chief in Elk Grove.

"Overall I've always just loved the excitement, because you never know what the day is going to present," he said. "But I got to experience the best of both worlds with a bigger and smaller department. And here in Itasca there was a lot more involvement on all levels and I think that's why I kept staying."

MacArthur also formerly served as the president of the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association.

He says he not only will miss the action of fighting fires and handling medical emergency calls, but also will miss working as a team with the district staff and interacting with residents.

"It was a great community, great district and a good fit for both parties, which is why I kept staying year after year," he said.

MacArthur said he's proud his legacy of public service will continue with his four children: two firefighters, a teacher and a nurse.