What's in the water? Mount Prospect firefighters had 16 children, 2 grandchildren in 2019
The Mount Prospect Fire Department is looking forward to some loud and rambunctious Christmas parties after 16 of its members welcomed babies -- and two more became grandfathers for the first time -- all in 2019.
Deputy Chief John Dolan, not himself one of the new dads or grandpas, said the open houses and holiday gatherings the department hosts for its members and their families will be one of the highlights of the unprecedented baby boom.
"We look forward to future department events and watching them all grow up together," Dolan said about the little ones, now about 1 month to 13 months old. "With any luck, we'll have a few second-generation firefighters among them."
The aging of the baby boomer generation is part of the explanation for this newest boom in firefighter children. The department has seen its share of retirements in recent years and also has hired to expand its ranks.
"We have a lot of new firemen," Dolan said. "And with a lot of young firemen come a lot of young families."
The Murphy family is one of them. Firefighter/paramedic Mike Murphy, 34, has been with the department for nearly 10 years and welcomed his first child, Gavin, more than three years ago.
During last year's baby boom, Murphy's wife, Alyssa Ali, gave birth to their second son, Griffin, on April 15. The birth came just hours after one of Murphy's co-workers, firefighter/paramedic Ryan Lawler, welcomed daughter Emma to his family, also on April 15.
The news of baby after baby posted to the department's bulletin board and sent around in emails became a trend as last year progressed.
The first of the 2019 boom was Audrey, born to the family of Assistant Fire Chief Bryan Loomis on Jan. 3. And the last, sneaking in on Dec. 31, was little Levi, joining the family of firefighter/paramedic Ben Johnson.
After Audrey, there was a two-month gap until Gianna was born March 18 to the family of firefighter/paramedic Nic Schlenbecker. Then the next day came Samantha, joining the family of firefighter/paramedic Joe Vena.
"We've had a fair amount of births through the years, but never to this extent," Dolan said. "A big year in the past would have been four or five babies."
But this year, they just kept on coming -- some of them to newly minted dads and others to parenting pros like Murphy with one or more kids already in the fold. The dads were able to share stories of how their wives were feeling throughout pregnancy, how ready they felt to have a baby, and later, how to get their babies to sleep.
"It's absolutely phenomenal because you get to share all the experiences with each other," Murphy said. "You hear all the ups and downs, you get all the questions that we bounce off each other."
All told, the department family expanded by 12 boys and six girls, including grandbabies Colton in the family of Lt. Ron Redlin and Andrew in the family of Lt. Rich Christensen.
The department celebrated with a photo of 14 of the 16 dads and both of the grandpas with their little ones taken at the firehouse and posted to Facebook on Friday. It had 673 likes, loves or "wow" reactions, along with 95 shares and 63 comments by Saturday afternoon. A couple of the comments asked "What's in the water?"
Working the odd hours of a firefighter -- 24 on, 48 off -- now comes in handy for many of the fathers, who are stay-at-home dads when they're not on shift, Dolan said.
Murphy is one of them, caring for his boys in Trout Valley near Cary while his wife works as director of marketing for Arlington International Racecourse. But when he has committee meetings on his days off, he'll bring the kids in with him for some well-behaved firehouse fun.
"They really do love it," Murphy said. "It's a really kid-friendly environment here."
Firefighters can see tragic or disturbing situations on the job, Murphy said, so it has been fun to have so many squirmy infants as "a constant reminder of upcoming excitement."
What's high on the excitement list? Those firehouse Christmas parties when everyone gets together.
"It's going to be an explosion of kids," Murphy said.