Members of the Chicago Heights Fire Department don’t want things to change and have enlisted the help of the community to help make their point.
While off duty, members of the fire department have been out knocking on doors educating residents about possible changes by the city administration in regards to the fire department. The fire department’s union, International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local 711, is currently in contract negotiations with the city.
Steve Koenig, president of Local 711, said city officials want to reduce the number of full-time firefighters working in the department to part-time or contracting out some of the duties of the firefighters like ambulance services as well as possibly closing one the city’s four fire houses. The current minimum number of full-time firefighters required to work each day is 17 and Koenig believes it should stay that way.
“It’s about the safety of residents and the safety of firemen,” he said.
To rally support, while off duty, members of the fire department have been out in the community educating residents about the possible changes the city wants to implement as well as asking resident to put signs saying “Keep 17 CHFD” on their front lawns as a show of support.
“We’ve had a huge response from the residents,” he said. “We really want to let them know we will continue to deliver quality emergency service.”
Koenig believes community support played a part in the union and the city getting back to the negotiating table after an impasse that has lasted several months. He understands that the city is looking at ways to cut costs, but it should not be done at the expense of safety.
“Hopefully we will get things squared away,” he said.
After repeated attempts to contact the mayor, he was unavailable for comment.
Chicago Heights has a population of about 30,000 and is 30 miles south of Chicago.
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