PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – In 2021, the Peoria Fire Department responded to just less than 20,500 calls, marking one of the busiest years ever for the department.
Peoria Fire Chief Jim Bachman said it’s not uncommon to see an increase in calls on a year-to-year basis. But after a reduction in runs in 2020 attributed to COVID-19, the fire department saw calls back on the upswing just a year later.
“We’re ahead of every other year except for 2018,” Chief Bachman said.
In 2021, Bachman said not only did the number of fire calls rise in Peoria but other emergencies as well.
“Shootings were up, [and] we had a significant increase in motor vehicle accidents that we responded to,” Bachman said.
Ryan Brady, president of Peoria Firefighters Local 50, said the increased workload is felt by first responders.
“When the adjustments were made to reduce some of the non-emergent calls and you’re still running 20,000 calls, it takes a toll on our guys,” Brady said.
At the start of the year, an important resource returned to the Peoria Fire Department. Engine Company 2 was restored after it was temporarily closed in December due to COVID cases.
“To have that engine to be able to backfill and not strip our downtown companies of an additional fire engine, definitely, head and shoulders one of the best things that happened in 2021,” Brady said.
While the engine is currently being covered by current staff and overtime, funds from the federal Staffing For Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant which opened applications on Monday may help.
“We’re looking at staffing engine two with those people that we can hire from receiving that grant,” Bachman said.
Despite challenges the fire department has faced, Brady said the mission of Peoria firefighters is unchanged.
“We’re here to respond, we’re here to take care of this community and that’s our sole purpose,” Brady said.
Brady said the community can help the fire department by the way they choose to shop. He said by shopping locally and keeping revenue in the area will assist the city’s public safety departments.