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updated: 7/31/2012 5:44 PM

Palatine Rural fire chief testifies before Congressional subcommittee

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  • Hank Clemmensen

      Hank Clemmensen

 

The job duties of local fire chiefs typically don't include trips to Washington, D.C., to testify before congressional subcommittees.

But that's exactly what Inverness-based Palatine Rural Fire Protection District Chief Hank Clemmensen did last week, his second appearance in the past two months.

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With his one-year term set to begin Saturday as president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, it's a safe bet Clemmensen's recent meetings with the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management, part of the House's Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, won't be his last.

"Our organization received an invite from the subcommittee, and I drew the short end of the stick," Clemmensen, the IAFC's current vice president, joked from the organization's conference in Denver.

The Fairfax, Va.-based IAFC represents the leadership of firefighters and emergency responders worldwide with almost 14,000 members. It's heavily involved in federal legislation and professional development.

Last week's appearance focused on garnering support for the Safe Building Code Incentive Act, which the IAFC hopes will encourage states to proactively adopt the most current commercial and residential building codes. Those that do would receive a 4 percent increase in any disaster reimbursement.

Clemmensen said model commercial and residential codes designed by fire protection officials, engineers, architects, construction experts and other parties can save money in the long run.

In his testimony, Clemmensen pointed to natural disasters in which the number of lives lost and insurance claims dropped dramatically in areas that strictly adhered to tough zoning and building codes.

Only about 12 states have good model codes, Clemmensen said, and Illinois is not one of them. The state is among those that opted out of the 2009 edition of the International Residential Code, which called for residential sprinklers in all new construction.

"We have several communities that have adopted these codes, but homebuilders have persuaded a lot of states to eliminate this part," Clemmensen said.

To accommodate his new position as IAFC president, Clemmensen will take a leave of absence from Palatine Rural beginning Sept. 1.

Deputy Chief Rich Mays will take over as interim chief, and an assistant chief will take on more administrative duties. The department has been sharing its joint training officer with Rolling Meadows, which in turn handles Palatine Rural's battalion chief and shift commander duties.

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