Remembering fallen firefighters, the Peoria Fire Department hosts memorial Tuesday

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Gathered outside City Hall Tuesday, Peoria firefighters remembered those who died in the line of duty.

“We take time out to remember the individuals that have come before us, that taught us so much, that have had so much respect not only for the job but for their community,” said Peoria Fire Chief Jim Bachman.

The Fallen Firefighter Memorial Ceremony included a reading of the names of those who died while fighting fires, but also those who retired from the department and have since passed away.

After the reading of the names, three bells were sounded. The bell symbolizes the start of a firefighter’s shift, and every alarm throughout.

“I think it gets forgotten sometimes that it’s a sacrifice for an entire family,” Bachman said.

Peoria Fire Chief Jim Bachman made a point to address mental health.

“We have lost fellow firefighters to cancer, to suicide, to many things, besides dying in a structure fire, that are job-related,” Chief Bachman said. “So, we do know how it feels to lose our friends.”

He said that mental health crises are on the rise, especially among police and fire service members.

“There’s been challenges in the recent years, within our department, and you know, it’s coming to the forefront,” he said. “I think and I hope that some of the stigma is going away, and we can get some of the individuals to seek help. And when they do, that we’re prepared to give that help.”

Also in attendance was Peoria Mayor Rita Ali, District 2 Councilman Chuck Grayeb, and At-large Councilmember Kiran Velpula.

Grayeb said there is a gap in the city budget that needs to go to first responders. Chief Bachman also said since 2019, they have lost 3 firetrucks. He said the consequence is detrimental.

“In 2017, the data show that we kept house fires, structure fires to the room of origin, meaning where the fire began, 71 percent of the time,” Chief Bachman said. “Now… we’re keeping structure fires to the room of origin 54.5 percent of the time. A drastic drop.”

“That means that our firefighters are going into event more dangerous conditions. It means that community members that may be in that house probably aren’t surviving. The data shows that any time it gets beyond the room of origin, that your chance of survival drops tremendously.”

Bachman said there were several retired Peoria firefighters in attendance.

“It means a lot to see them show up,” he said.

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