New fire department ready to take over for St. Charles
For the first time in decades, when Fox River and Countryside Fire/Rescue District residents call 911 for a fire or medical emergency, it won't be St. Charles showing up at the door.
The district assumed responsibility for that service at midnight Saturday through a contract it was planning to approve with American Emergency Services one hour before the department was to go live.
District trustees scheduled an unusual 11 p.m. meeting Saturday. Deemed a "pizza party" by the district's attorney, Ken Shepro, trustees were also expected to vote to delay the closing on the purchase contract for Fire Station No. 1 until later in the week. The county has issued a temporary certificate of occupancy so firefighters and paramedics can use the station when the first emergency call comes in.
Construction was still in progress on the Campton Hills station Friday, but the bulk of the work was complete.
The familiar cornerstone of older firehouses, a fire pole, is absent. Such poles are now seen as more of a liability than an asset. In its place, stainless steel kitchen appliances, new tan-painted walls and a fitness room awaited final furnishings and actual firefighters last week to complete the picture.
Fire Chief Greg Benson said his new staff have spent most of their time in the weeks leading up to the station going live traversing the area and testing equipment. The district received more than 300 applications for what will be a 54- or 55-member staff.
"That really has given us an opportunity to have some strong candidates in both fire and emergency medical services," Benson said. "It'll be all business (when) we take over. The crews are prepared.
"And as far as the facility, there have been a lot of people from the community who have stopped by. Everyone has been very impressed about what's here and how it's laid out."
The district kept to a tight time frame, taking only about 90 days to complete work on the Campton Hills station and another in South Elgin. Construction hit a stumbling block for a time when both Campton Hills and South Elgin issued stop work orders, and when Chris Baldwin, the Citizens Advisory Committee president and one of the contractors on the job, admitted he failed to get the proper permits. Work on the firehouses totaled about $700,000, not including land acquisition.
Benson said he believes the firefighters and paramedics in the department have training and abilities comparable to any department in the country.
"You can't just get a certificate off the Internet and become a firefighter or a paramedic," Benson said.
"It's not easy. All of our staff is well-trained and prepared to take over."