PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – Peoria firefighters are calling for the resources cut to the department to be restored.
On Oct. 1, 2020, Peoria Fire Station 4 on SW Jefferson Street was closed due to COVID-19 budget projections, but that decision was reversed about six weeks later.
“So many calls come from that area of town and that’s when we made the decision as an administration that we probably need to reopen station 4,” said Chief Jim Bachman of the Peoria Fire Department.
As Station 4 reopened, Station 8 on West Hurlburt street, along with Engine 2, were put on the chopping block.
“That helped some of our calls in that area, but did leave a hole in Station 8’s territory and Engine 2’s territory,” Bachman said.
Due to cuts made dating back about 18 months, Ryan Brady, the president of Peoria Firefighters Local 50, said the city has lost nine firefighters on the streets.
“Trying to respond to multiple emergencies [while] keeping fire to room of origin honestly has become a daunting task,” Brady said.
Brady is calling on city officials to restore Engine 2, which he said was included in a balanced 2019-2020 budget.
1st District Peoria councilwoman, Denise Jackson, said she agrees that the city should go back and review cuts made to public safety.
“We have to support them with staffing. We have to support them with firehouses being opened [and] support them with engines,” Jackson said.
Jacksons also said the city has earmarked COVID-19 relief funds to address job cuts, but the city council has not decided which areas would be impacted.
Brady said the community’s and firefighter’s safety depends on reductions being restored.
“If the end result comes at the loss of a civilian, another civilian, because we’ve had four civilians that have died as a result of fires this year, or even a firefighter, we’re going to have some serious problems,” Brady said.
A new Fire Station 4 is being built on Western Avenue. Bachman explained the new location will be better to serve the community, but he still expects response gaps.
Brady said the Peoria Fire Department is on pace to answer 22,000 calls this year, which would be the most in the department’s history.