Tuesday, July 24, 2012

OFPD Votes to hire 11 firefighters

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                      Ray Hanania
July 24, 2012                                                              rayhanania@comcast.net

OFPD Votes to hire 11 firefighters

OFPD, Orland Park, IL., – The Orland Fire Protection District board Tuesday voted to authorize the hiring of 11 firefighters. The new hires will have to be confirmed by the three member OFPD Board of Commissioners.

Fire Chief Ken Brucki said the hiring is based on the staffing needs assessments and are needed and Board President Jim Hickey said the new hires will strengthen the fire district’s response time and commitment to public safety.

Hickey said the District’s Board of Commissioners will have to decide whether to hire the firefighters from the list that was approved and later frozen last year or from a more recent list of qualified candidates.

“By taking this action, we are making sure we have enough manpower to strengthen fire response time for the OFPD,” Hickey said predicting they could be on the force before Thanksgiving or possibly sooner.

Hickey said nine of the new hires will fill vacancies created over the past year. The vote was three to one with Hickey, trustees Marty McGill and Glenn Michalek voting to hire the 11 firefighters and Trustee Blair Rhode voting no. Trustee Chris Evoy was not at the meeting Tuesday.

Hickey said that the former board voted in April 2011 to hire 12 firefighters between the election and when the two new trustees were sworn in to office. Rhode and Evoy had urged the old board not to take any major spending decisions. Hickey voted with the old board in order to allow for a reconsideration vote once the new trustees were sworn in to office.

“I was against the hiring but the vote by the former board could only be reconsidered by the new board if someone who supported the measure decided to reverse their vote, which I did,” Hickey explained.

The hiring decision was put on hold by the new board until a staffing study could be completed and a permanent fire chief was appointed, both done this year.

“The taxpayers demanded accountability. They wanted an end to the past practices where money was spent without true accountability. This board has carefully and comprehensively examined the issue, reviewed the budget and costs and the manpower needs and we’ve concluded that at this time, new hires are justified,” Hickey said.

Brucki, who was hired earlier this year as the permanent fire chief, said he evaluated staffing levels against the proficiency of services.

“I have had the opportunity to study staffing and have concluded we need to hire based on several factors,” Brucki said.

“Public safety needs will always be my priority, and the Board of Trustees has done an excellent job of balancing fiscal responsibility of tax payer money and addressing the service needs of our communities.”

Brucki said the factors are:

·     We have a significant safety issue with regard to our personnel working excessive overtime to fill our staffing needs.
·     -  We have a significant amount of overtime to fill our staffing needs and the most productive way to meet those needs are to hire more people. 
·     -  In an effort to be more fiscally responsible to the tax payer, at this time given our current make-up it is more responsible and more productive to hire people rather than combat an escalating overtime expenditure.”

“We will continually measure the public safety needs and compare those needs with the service we provide.  Our main mission is to continually evaluate our response time and maintain the most professional service with the quickest response this District has established,” Brucki said.

McGill and Michalek both voted for the original hires in 2011 and said they were pleased the board finally moved forward with the hires.

“I’ve always been in favor of the hiring,” McGill said.

"I am against any hiring until a real discussion about minimum staffing and staffing changes.  I am for evaluating call volumes and basing staffing accordingly.  During the meeting, I could not get an answer on 7 pm to 7 am call volumes," Rhode said.

"The public sector needs to take a hard look at the current state of affairs.  We need to take a hard look at legacy costs and realize the, to quote president Obama, fundamental change is required.  We can no longer sustain business as usual.  The long term costs of this staffing volume will ultimately bury this district."

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Brush fires hit two fields

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Brush fires hit two fields

On Thursday July 12th, 2012 Orland Fire was notified of a grass fire in the area of 157th and Wolf. Companies were dispatched and while en route noted a column of smoke West of Wolf Rd. Initial crews were on the scene within 5 minutes locating the incident at 157th and 116th Ct. A large area of tall brush was burning with exposure to a home. Orland responded with two engines, a truck, an ambulance along chief officers. Orland was able to deploy its brush unit into the area that was burning to help control the spread and extinguish the fire. Assistance was received from Homer Fire’s brush unit along with a 2000 gallon water tender from Northwest Homer since there were no close hydrants to the scene. The cause of the fire is unknown but the extremely dry weather contributed to the spread. The fire was contained within 15 minutes and extinguished in about 45 minutes. There were no injuries and no property loss other than vegetation.

Five days earlier, on Saturday night July 7, 2012, the Orland Fire District received 911 calls at about 21:30 for a large brush fire in that area. Orland units arrived within 5 minutes for find a large area of what was swamp burning. The initial engine, brush unit, and chief were supplemented by additional Orland companies, including 2 engines, a truck, an ambulance and chief. Assistance was also requested from Northwest Homer for a water tender due to the distance of hydrants in the area off of 143rd. The fire was contained in about 45 minutes but crews remained on the scene for over 2 hours to extinguish hot spots. Over the next week, the Orland Fire District has responded to the same area numerous times for reoccurring hot spots. The area was determined to contain peat soil below the surface which due to the dry weather is no longer wet and susceptible to risk of burning. On Wednesday night fire department crews used thermal imaging cameras to identify the hot spots at the surface and marked them. The Orland Fire District had a crew on the scene both Thursday and Friday using a brush unit for several hours to concentrate on the hot spots that are appearing on the surface. These hot spots were detected to have a surface temperature of 500 degrees. There were no injuries reported and no property damage other than the vegetation on public land. Orland Fire is continuing to concentrate efforts on the hot spots to eliminate concern of the residents and reoccurring calls to the area for smoke.

Battalion Chief Dan Smith

Editor’s Note: Attached photos from the 157th and Wolf Road fire


OFPD hosts parent seminar on Heroin and Substance abuse Wed July 18

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OFPD hosts parent seminar on Heroin and Substance abuse Wed July 18

The Orland Fire Protection District is hosting a program Wednesday July 18 at 7 pm to help parents recognize challenges facing their children related to drug abuse and other distractions while driving such as texting.

The program, called “In the Blink of an Eye,” will be hosted by OFPD Battalion Chief Michael Schofield and will feature two short but impactful videos and presentations from people who lost loved ones to drug abuse including alcohol and heroin.

Schofield said that while many parents are aware of problems involving alcohol abuse and driving while intoxicated, many suburbanites are surprised to learn that heroin use is increasing in middle class communities including those in the Southwest Suburbs.

“The program is designed to help parents understand that one seemingly innocent choice can dramatically change a child’s life and that change is instant and overwhelming,” Schofield said.

“We address alcohol abuse by teenagers, DUIs and also Heroin use, which is on the rise.”

Schofield said the program, which will be held at the Orland Fire Protection District’s headquarters at 9790 W. 151st Street in the District’s Board room, will feature two short but powerful videos on the impact that drugs and alcohol can have on a young life.

One involves texting and driving and another involves drinking while driving.

“They are very graphic and realistic,” Schofield said. “We want parents to recognize how serious these issues are. People talk about the problem but many do so in the context of it not impacting their lives. It’s something they read in a newspaper about someone else. We want them to know these tragedies can impact their lives directly.”

Speakers and presenters include Tammy O’Brien, who works with the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists (AAIM).

O’Brien’s son was a police officer who was drinking and driving and then got into an accident resulting the death of two Orland students. O’Brien will discuss how the accident certainly cost the lives of two young kids but also how it impacted her son, who had career dreams and ambitions that were destroyed by that one moment in time. Her son’s mistake cost two lives and changed his life forever.

Schofield said they will also play a 911 audio tape involving an heroin overdose from a victim in Orland Park.

Another speaker is a graduate from Lockport High school whose friend died of an Heroin overdose. The boy’s father, Brian Kirk, will also discuss his son who was only a few weeks away from high school graduation at the time of his death.

At the end of the presentations, the speakers and Fire District officials will engage the parents in an open discussion.

Schofield said that the misconceptions about heroin use need to be shattered.

“We hope to get parents to attend. It is a very powerful message. There is no stereotype for a heroin addict,” Schofield said.

“We want to make parents aware that they can make a difference in the lives of their children. It’s not too late. The children and parents need to recognize the consequences of their mistakes. Bad things do happen to good kids. Heroin is a real problem in the suburbs. It’s impacting kids with straight As. There is no stereotype for a heroin addict.”


Monday, July 9, 2012

Orland Fire Protection District supervises emergency trainings

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Orland Fire Protection District supervises emergency trainings

The Orland Fire Protection District completed a three-day Train the Trainer program that was funded through a $302,400 Federal grant received earlier this year to support the district’s MABAS needs.

MABAS is the “Mutual Aid Box Alarm System” which networks the emergency response system for hundreds of emergency services.

The training program, held June 25-27 at the OFPD Training Center at 163rd and 108th Avenue, included 21 fire professionals including 12 from the MABAS Divisions, Bloomington, Countryside and Orland who were certified to provide instructions in the Blue Card Hazard Zone Management System.

These instructors, said organizer Fire Lt. David Piper “will assist in facilitating certifying the over 400 officers and firefighters covered in the grant. They will go out and train others.”

The goal, Piper explained, is to facilitate “inter-operability and efficiency” among participating emergency service agencies. The 400 officers are responsible for managing emergency responses of more than 1,500 firefighters serving more than 750,000 people in Chicagoland’s south and southwest suburbs.

Piper said that the trainees were led through a series of instructions on hi-tech computer programs and training simulators that present emergency challenges to help the firefighters respond more effectively and in coordination with others.

“Everyone has to be trained in these techniques and practices to make them work,” Piper said.

Fire Chief Ken Brucki said that in order to maintain and provide the highest levels of emergency response services, the Orland Fire Protection District is committed to insuring all of its employees and partners in neighboring districts have the most effective training.

“Our firefighters are constantly being trained in the newest and most effective techniques to respond to emergencies and to improve the efficiencies of coordinated responses,” Brucki said.

“Lt. Piper supervised an important training for those who depend on our ability to respond to emergencies.”

July 4th Celebrations proceed without a hitch

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July 4th Celebrations proceed without a hitch

As a result of extensive preparations and staffing by the Orland Fire Protection District (OFPD), both of the two major July 4th celebrations took place without any major problems.

There were no medical responses required due to fireworks although there were three minor brush fires that were contained quickly contained. It is not unusual for the fireworks to cause small brush fires during the shows in fields in the region where the fireworks are launched and where embers may fall.

Here’s an overview of Independence Day responses for Orland Hills and Orland Park.

Orland Hills, June 30

Once again a great start to the National Holiday was had by all at the Orland Hills Party in the Park.  

One of the highlights of the event was the fantastic fireworks show that was staged and launched on Saturday Evening at 9:30p.m.  

The fireworks event was the culmination of a coordinated effort, which was started about a month prior to the show.  Individuals from the Parks and Recreation Department, Mad Bomber Fireworks Company, Orland Hills Police Department, the Village Manager, the Mayor’s Office and the Orland Fire Protection District met.  Prior to the June 30th event, there were several inspections done by the Orland Fire Prevention Bureau. 

This was to assess the excessively dry conditions and subsequently plan to stage additional pieces of fire apparatus (Ladder Truck, Engine, and specially equipped Wildland Fire Fighting Rig) in the neighborhoods. 

This strategy was to be ready and head off the potential of fire from fireworks fallout during these unseasonably and excessively dry conditions.  Thankfully the “in place” strategy did not have to be implemented but it was ready.   

The event went off on Saturday night with nothing but cheers from the huge crowd that had gathered for the weekend event.  It was a great time, safely enjoyed by all due to the teamwork of those mentioned above. 

These types of planning processes have existed for a long time, with a great safety record.  Through this coordinated effort everyone has enjoyed a safe and glorious Independence Holiday each year.  The Orland Fire District is looking forward to next year for another successful 4th of July Memorial celebration at the Party in the Park.  Thank you.

-      Patrick G. Collier Orland Fire District Inspector #33

Orland Park, July 4

In an effort to help ensure the safety of the audience at fireworks displays within the district, the Orland Fire District utilizes a proven process which includes: permitting, preplanning, coordinating with other taxing bodies, site inspections and emergency vehicle stand-by for all such events. 

The process for this year’s Fourth of July fireworks display at Centennial Park began in early June with the permitting portion of the process.  The fireworks permit application was reviewed by the Fire Prevention Bureau to ensure that the proper licensing requirements were being met, the proper procedures for launching the fireworks were being utilized, the safety/exclusion zone around the launch site was of the appropriate size and that all state and local codes/ordinances regarding fireworks displays were being adhered to.

The inspection portion of the process began the week before the show, with an inspection of the site and the immediate area around the site.  Due to the drought conditions that we are experiencing this year, it was determined that the fireworks site would have to be watered down prior to the show to prevent small brush fires from starting; this was accomplished by a coordinated effort between the Orland Fire District and the Orland Parks and Recreation Department. 

Early in the afternoon of July 4th, a Fire Inspector met with the lead pyrotechnician from Melrose Pyrotechnics at the Centennial Park site, to discuss how the show was going to be set up and launched, the safety procedures that were going to be followed and an inspection was performed on the racks and tubes that were going to be used in the show. 

Four hours prior to the start of the fireworks display, another inspection of the site was conducted by the Fire Prevention Bureau to ensure that the launch site/exclusion zone was secure, that the fireworks were set up per the approved plan, that there were no hazards in the launch area, emergency procedures were reviewed and radio communications were established between the lead pyrotechnician and the Fire District personnel that were standing by in/around the park during the show. 

Upon the completion of the fireworks display, a final inspection was made by the Fire Prevention bureau to ensure that the site had been cleared of any misfired fireworks and that there were no spot fires and/or other hazards in the area.  Once this inspection had been completed, the site was deemed safe and the fire equipment that was standing by in/around the park was released to return to their stations.

This year’s fireworks display at Centennial Park went very smoothly and safely due to the combined effort of the Village of Orland Park, the Orland Fire District and Melrose Pyrotechnics.  This cooperation, coupled with diligence and attention to safety led to a very enjoyable and safe experience for the audience.

-      OFPD Fire Chief Ken Brucki

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Extra precautions set for Orland Fireworks display

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Statement from OFPD Fire Chief Ken Brucki on “extra preparations” for fireworks celebrations:

The Orland Fire Protection District is taking extra precautions for fireworks displays, including tonight’s show in Orland Park. OFPD firefighters have conducted extensive assessments of dry conditions in the Orland region for tonight’s fireworks display.

“This preparation began last week and was used to prepare for the Fire Works display in Orland Hills on Saturday night. In addition to assessing the excessively dry conditions of the Orland region, the Orland Fire Protection District will stage additional pieces of fire equipment such as Ladder Truck, Engine, and specially equipped Wildland Fire Fighting Rig in Orland neighborhoods. This strategic planning is intended to enhance preparation in the event of any potential fires caused by the fireworks displays during this unseasonably and excessively dry conditions,” said Orland Fire Protection District Chief Ken Brucki said. 

“I also again caution residents to refrain from using any fireworks. Most fireworks are illegal. But almost all of the fireworks are dangerous, especially in the excessively dry conditions we are facing. It’s not worth the risk. Let the professionals handle the fireworks and enjoy the holiday celebration with confidence and safety.”

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