PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The Peoria Fire Department has started a new Fire Chaplain Program to add support to their firefighters and the Peoria area community.

Pastor William Preston has been named Lead Fire Chaplain for the department. His duties include adding emotional support to the firefighters and the communities in a time of hardship. The goal is to have one chaplain assigned to each of the twelve fire departments in Peoria, eleven positions have already been filled.

The firefighters are welcome to talk to their chaplains about anything from a bad day at work to trauma they may have suffered on the job.

“We want to be able to pray with them, if and when they desire that, or be able to talk through situations they want to talk through.” Preston said.

The Fire Chaplains will also serve the community in responding to accidents to support the victims.

“Many times the first responders can’t give that emotional support to the people that they are serving, they’re there to do a job medically or to fight a fire,” he said.

Fire Chief, Shawn Sollberger, says that while chaplaincy programs are common amongst police departments, they are a relatively new concept in fire departments.

“We are extremely excited about what this chaplaincy program could mean to this fire department, but even then, more importantly, what it could mean to the community,” the chief said.

The new program is an opportunity to provide extra support to the first responders in a physically and mentally demanding job so they can better serve their communities.