Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fire District puzzled by Orland Mayor’s criticism of fighting drug abuse

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Fire District puzzled by Orland Mayor’s criticism of fighting drug abuse

Orland Fire District rebuffs criticism from Orland Park Mayor McLaughlin and urges government agencies to work together to fight rising drug use

Parents and students packed an Orland Fire Protection District community-wide meeting on drug and substance abuse Tuesday July 15, 2014
Parents and students packed an Orland Fire Protection District community-wide meeting on drug and substance abuse Tuesday July 15, 2014
The Orland Fire Prevention District is puzzled and surprised that Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin would criticize the Fire District for hosting a program to raise awareness among parents about drug and substance abuse in the suburban region.

The program was held on Tuesday night (July 15) and has been hosted annually for the past four years. It was widely publicized, showcasing student role models and parents whose children and families have experienced the tragedy of drugs and substance abuse.

McLaughlin issued a press release Friday that falsely accused the Fire District of disseminating “inaccurate information” about drug use. It implies there is no heroin or substance abuse problem in Orland Park or the immediate suburbs and contradicts public statements made only four weeks earlier by Orland Park Police Chief Tim McCarthy.

“We are deeply disappointed McLaughlin would issue his criticism without even contacting us to discuss the issue, or even attending the event which was widely publicized in the media,” Orland Fire Protection District President Jim Hickey said.
Brian Kirk, The HERO Foundation
Brian Kirk, The HERO Foundation

“The mayor’s press release was filled with inaccurate and irresponsible statements. I am deeply disappointed when public officials show more concern for their public images rather than for the safety and well-being of our citizens.”

Hickey said the information disseminated at the Fire District’s public meeting was accurate and correctly defined the threat of heroin and substance abuse as serious concerns that must be addressed by an educated community.

“It would be shameful to believe public officials would bury their heads in the sand and pretend there is no drug abuse problem in our region. The data shows a frightening increase in heroin and opiate abuse in this region and it needs to be addressed,” Hickey said. “That’s the only conclusion I can make from the mayor’s actions.”

Hickey said McLaughlin overreacted to a newspaper article which may have unfairly characterized the school district as being unresponsive, but the fact is there hasn’t been a concerted effort to address the rising drug problems.

“Drug use isn’t a problem that plagues ‘bad neighborhoods’ or ‘poor communities.’ It’s a problem everywhere and responsible public officials should do everything they can to educate and inform the public. That’s what the Fire District has and will continue to do,” Hickey said.
Fire Chief Ken Brucki, Bat Chief Michael Schofield, Brian Kirk, Sandburg athlete Pat Brucki, Denver Broncos draft pick Michael Schofield, US Olympic Ice Hockey Medalist and Sandburg Graduate Kendall Coyne, Tami O'Brien, OFPD Board President Jim Hickey, OFPD Trustees Chris Evoy and Jayne Schirmacher.
Fire Chief Ken Brucki, Bat Chief Michael Schofield, Brian Kirk, Sandburg athlete Pat Brucki, Denver Broncos draft pick Michael Schofield, US Olympic Ice Hockey Medalist and Sandburg Graduate Kendall Coyne, Tami O'Brien, OFPD Board President Jim Hickey, OFPD Trustees Chris Evoy and Jayne Schirmacher.

The Fire District is more than willing to meet with Mayor McLaughlin, Police Supt. McCarthy and officials from the local schools, Hickey said, to work together and develop a unified stand against drug abuse in a more appropriate manner rather than through public criticism from officials who didn’t even attend the meeting.
Tami O'Brien
Tami O'Brien

The Fire District program was not funded by taxpayer dollars and was conducted by volunteers who included three current and former Sandburg students, Michael Schofield, who was drafted by the Denver Broncos, Olympic Ice Hockey Silver Medalist Kendall Coyne, and Patrick Brucki a current Sandburg student athlete. The three students reached out to the more than 100 parents and students who attended the two hour long seminar.

Their message was clear: “Drugs are not fun. They are dangerous. And students must resist the temptation to hang around other kinds who are using drugs.”

The meeting included the experiences of two parents whose children were involved in drugs and substance abuse, including the father of a high school senior who died of heroin use. They related how their children made the “wrong choices,” destroying their lives and their families. Tami O’Brien and Brian Kirk represented the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists (AAIM) and The Hero Foundation.

The program, cohosted by In the Blink of an Eye Foundation headed by OFPD Battalion Chief Michael Schofield, was widely publicized for six weeks. It attracted many community leaders including Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman, and Village of Orland Park Trustee Dan Calandriello.

The information reflected firsthand data as experienced by emergency medical personnel and first responders from the Fire District.
Kendall Coyne, Olympic Ice Hockey Silver Medalist
Kendall Coyne, Olympic Ice Hockey Silver Medalist

“Firefighters are oftentimes the first people at the scene of a drug or substance abuse incident. We are called to save their lives,” said Fire Chief Ken Brucki.

“Helping parents understand what is involved and what can be done can help save more lives. That’s why we continue to host this program and will host it again next year.”

Data clearly shows an alarming increase in heroin use in Orland Park, in the Fire District, and in the suburban region.

During the presentation, Brucki said he spoke about drug use among elementary school children “throughout the region,” not specifically or just in School District 135 or with respect to the local schools.

“At no time did we criticize the Village, the Police or the school districts. We noted the drug problem is growing not just in Orland Park but in neighboring suburban communities,” Brucki said.

Brucki cited an article in the local media on Friday July 18th that highlighted the success of the HELPS program started in Will County which has created "a phenomenal downturn in heroin related deaths" and which works to combine efforts from various branches of community leadership.

“We have most recently had a great relationship with the leadership of local school districts, including District 135, on education and prevention and we want that to continue,” Brucki said.

Hickey said that last month, Police Supt. McCarthy told local media that heroin use was a problem. He announced police will carry Narcan (Naxalon) in their vehicles to respond to drug abuse issues. Narcan can reverse the effects of opiate and heroin overdoses.

McCarthy’ was quoted as saying he “first noticed” an increase in heroin use in 2009, noting last year “Orland Park had 13 drug overdoses and six deaths, including five that involved heroin.” This year, McCarthy said, the department has seen eight overdoses and one death.

Hickey said McCarthy’s observations only reinforce the need to bring government officials together to address this growing problem.

Orland Park is only one community in the Orland Fire Protection District, which serves 75,000 residents in 33 square miles, including in Orland Hills and areas of unincorporated Orland Township.

The Fire District released the following incident report which shows a steady increase in heroin and opiate use since 2009. The figures do not include substance abuse incidents where Narcan was not administered.

“The incidents involved patients who displayed extreme drug seizures, were visibly unconscious, or were facing an extreme danger to life, such as experiencing a Heroin or opiate-like overdose,” Hickey said.

2009: administered Narcan 47 times, with 22 positive results.
2010: administered Narcan 49 times, with 23 positive results.
2011: administered Narcan 49 times, with 33 positive results.
2012: administered Narcan 63 times, with 32 positive results.
2013: administered Narcan 59 times, with 30 positive results.
(Photos courtesy of the Orland Fire Protection District.)

Here’s the video of the public community program:
Here is a link to a story broadcast about the meeting by WBBM TV (CBS) Tuesday night.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Orland Fire hosts community meeting on increasing Heroin use and substance abuse

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Orland Fire hosts community meeting on increasing Heroin use and substance abuse

More than 100 parents and their children attended an informational meeting hosted by the Orland Fire Protection District to address the issue of increasing heroin use and substance abuse held Tuesday (July 15, 2014) at the Fire District headquarters on 151st Street.

Speakers included students at Sandburg High school and former students who have excelled in athletics, including a recent draft to the Denver Broncos and an Olympic Silver Medalist, and parents of two young people who were involved in drug and alcohol abuse.

The meeting was led by OFPD Chief Ken Brucki and Battalion Chief Michael Schofield, and attracted support from members of the Orland Fire Protection District Board including Board President Jim Hickey, and Trustees Chris Evoy and Jayne Schirmacher. Also attending to show support for the need for heightened public awareness of the substance abuse problems locally were  government officials including  Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman and Village of Orland Park Trustee Dan Calandriello.

"I think it is very important that we come together as a community and speak about these issues because they are important to our families and our children. We don't want to pretend they don't exist and sweep them under the rug," Gorman said.

Speakers included Carl Sandburg graduates Michael Schofield who was a 3rd round draft pick to the Denver Broncos football team this year, and Olympic U.S. Hockey Team Silver Medalist Kendal Coyne. Schofield and Coyne spoke about how drug abuse could have impacted their career goals and prevented them from attaining their achievements.

Patrick Brucki, a standout athlete who currently attends Sandburg spoke about life in high school where officials said drug and substance abuse is a problem.

Two parents painfully detailed how drug and substance abuse impacted their lives. Tami O'Brien spoke about her son, a Chicago policeman who was involved in a DUI that took two lives. Tami currently works with AAIM (Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists). Brian Kirk spoke about the battle to save his son who died from heroin use.

Here's the video of the public community program:

Here is a link to a story broadcast about the meeting by WBBM TV (CBS) Tuesday night.

Click here.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Fireworks blamed on home fire Friday night

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Fireworks blamed on home fire Friday night

Fire caused by fireworks being investigated by Orland Park Police 11200 block of Poplar Creek Lane
Fire caused by fireworks being investigated by Orland Park Police 11200 block of Poplar Creek Lane
Firefighters of the Orland Fire Protection District responded to a fire call at the 11200 block of Poplar Creek Lane on Friday night at around 9 pm, minutes before official government fireworks displays were set to begin in surrounding communities in celebration of the 4th of July.

It was among several fire calls that the OFPD responded to before and after the evening celebrations.

 Neighbors noticed a fire on the roof of the home and immediately called 9-1-1. Firefighters arrived several minutes after reporting smoke and fire showing above the attached garage and cedar covered roof.

The fire was quickly extinguished by the first arriving units and was confined to the roof above the garage. Firefighters noted some smoke in the attics of the home but kept the fire from extending inside the living areas, limiting the damage. The cause of the fire was determined to be the use of fireworks by persons in the area.

The Orland Park Police Department detained a person for questioning.

“We constantly caution people about the dangers of fireworks being used by the public without professional supervision. They can injure people and they can cause fires. People watch as fireworks shoot up into the sky, and when done professionally, it is fun. But when it is done individually, the individuals forget that’s sometimes the fireworks can come back down and cause damage to property. Fortunately, this home fire, which we believe was caused by the use of fireworks, did not result in any injuries but it did cause what could have been a major fire that would have changed the lives of the people living in the home,” OFPD Chief Ken Brucki said.

“With the very large volume of amateur fireworks, we were fortunate not have any reported injuries.”

“This is another reason why we constantly urge the public to leave the fireworks to the professionals. They look beautiful when they are fired into the sky at night but no one thinks about the consequences of when the fireworks come down on property. You need professionals there to manage the fireworks and professional firefighters on standby to respond to any injuries or fires,” said OFPD Board President Jim Hickey.

Brucki said that the Orland Fire Protection District responded to other incidents of fires caused by fireworks that were in outdoor situations. 

The Orland Fire Protection District also sent fire companies to assist in fighting a fire within the Northwest Homer Fire District. Brucki said the OFPD was on alert Friday night and will continue to be on alert through the weekend monitoring continued fireworks usage by the public.

The OFPD was present to monitor the spectacular fireworks display hosted by the Village of Orland Park and also displays hosted by other governments including the Village of Orland Hills.

All of the public-monitored fireworks displays were conducted without any incidents, officials said.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Orland Fire District to host meeting to help parents respond to growing Heroin threat

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Orland Fire District to host meeting to help parents respond to growing Heroin threat

FirefightersbattlefireLike many suburban communities, the Orland Fire Protection District is seeing an increase in heroin use by young people. In response, the OFPD will host a communitywide meeting with parents and their children on July 15 to discuss the problem and solutions parents can use.

OFPD officials said the purpose is not only to educate parents so they can raise awareness of the problem involving their children but to also stimulate a community-wide dialogue to help educate young people about the risks of drugs and especially heroin usage, but also other substance abuse problems including with alcohol.

Celebrities from the Orland Park area including two former Carl Sandburg Graduates who have been drafted by the NFL will join Fire District officials and representatives from the Heroin Epidemic Relief Organization foundation (HERO) and from the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists (AAIM).

“This is going to be a very important public meeting to discuss a growing problem that is spreading throughout the South Suburbs at an alarming rate,” said Orland Fire Protection District President James Hickey.

“Heroin isn’t an inner-city problem anymore. We’re seeing more and more cases and we think parents need to know how to deal with it. They can’t bury their heads in the sand.”

Speakers will include Michael Schofield, a Carl Sandburg graduate who was a 2014 3rd Round NFL Draft pick to the Denver Broncos, and Kendal Coyne, a Silver Medalist for the US Women’s Hockey Team. Also participating is Patrick Brucki, a student athlete standout at Sandburg.

“Young people tend to listen more when they have role models their age join the discussion to get young people more engaged,” said OFPD Fire Chief Ken Brucki.

“Schofield, Coyne and my son are all actively engaged in sports athletics and that’s a great connection for our young people.”

Brucki said program speakers include Brian Kirk, a founder of HERO Foundation and Tami Obrien from AAIM.

Battalion Chief Michael Schofield, who is helping to coordinate the project, said the region’s heroin problems have become epidemic.

“Our area recently has seen the reemergence of heroin — but this time around it is more pure and potent than was many years ago. Heroin is a cheap, highly addictive drug and has no clinical or medical use,” Schofield said.

“As the use of this drug increases, so does the impact in our communities. It brings devastation to families, an increase in crime (to fund the addiction), the loss of innocence, a lifelong prison of addiction and, in the most extreme cases, death.”

The program begins promptly at 6 pm on Tuesday, July 15 at the OFPD Administration building, 9790 W. 151st Street.

For more information visit the Orland Fire Protection District website at or visit the Facebook Page at Orland-Fire-Protection-District-IL.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Lightning causes Home fire in Orland Park at Karli Lane Wednesday

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Lightning causes Home fire in Orland Park at Karli Lane Wednesday

A lightning strike damaged a home in Orland Park on Wednesday afternoon June 25, 2014.

Residents were in their house as the thunderstorm approached their home on Karli Lane when the lightning struck the roof.

Hearing and feeling it hit their home they checked for damage and found their attic on fire. The Orland Fire Protection District received the 911 call reporting the fire at about 2:20 pm and dispatched units for a residential fire. Initial units arrived quickly and accessed the attic with a hose line to control the fire. The fire was confined to the attic area but extensive overhaul of the second floor was needed to expose other areas of hidden fire ignited by the lightning bolt as it traveled the pipes and ductwork.

Although the fire was extinguished in about 15 minutes, Orland firefighters remained for about 2 hours clearing the debris from the fallen ceiling and protecting undamaged portions of the home. There were no injuries reported and Orland units not involved in this incident covered other incidents in the District.

(Photos courtesy The Orland Fire Protection District

ALSO check out the Orland Fire Protection DIstrict's Facebook page for more information at

Monday, June 23, 2014

OFPD responds to home fire

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OFPD responds to home fire

The Orland Fire Protection District responded to a house fire around 2pm Monday afternoon June 23, 2014.

Neighbors reported seeing smoke coming from the roof and called 911.

Orland Firefighters arrived and reported smoke showing and made a quick interior attack to confine the fire to the lower level. The house sustained heavy smoke damage and had burned though the first floor above the area of origin. The homeowners were not inside at the time of fire and no injuries were reported.

Approximately 30 firefighters were on the scene with the fire being struck in about 30 minutes. Orland was assisted on scene by Palos Fire and had the stations covered with several other surrounding agencies. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Photos courtesy of the Orland Fire Protection District


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Applications now available for the OFPD annual Kids Fire & Life Safety Camp

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Applications now available for the OFPD annual Kids Fire & Life Safety Camp

The Orland Fire Protection District is accepting applications for children ages 8 years through 11 years to participate in its annual Kids Fire & Life Safety Camp which runs July 15 through July 18. Each session runs from 8:30 am until 11:30 am at the Fire District’s Training Center.

2013 Campers

The Fire & Life Safety camp is dedicated to exposing school aged children to safety lessons that deal with potential hazards commonly found in homes and at schools. The camp sessions are designed to be fun, entertaining and educational, while offering attendees the experience and knowledge to keep themselves out of harm’s way.

Campers will attend lectures and participate in hands-on lessons, including opportunities to participate in exercises designed to reinforce the program fundamentals.

Topics explored and addressed include Basic First Aid & CPR, water and pool safety, bicycle safety, Fire Prevention, personal safety and injury prevention, safety around utilities, rail road tracks, and severe weather preparedness. The program also teaches the children about required firefighter skills, and reinforces the dangers of dealing with strangers. Children also learn how to work together as a team.

The camp is held at 10728 W. 163rd Place.  Participation on the camp is free to OFPD district residents (proof of residency is required). If space is available, children from outside the district may attend for a nominal registration fee of $30. For more information, or to download an application visit the Orland Fire Protection District’s website at, or call 708-349-0074. You can also pick up an application at the OFPD Headquarters at 9790 W. 151st Street. Applications must be returned to the OFPD Headquarters no later than July 1.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

OFPD recruits given rigorous training in emergency fire simulations

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OFPD recruits given rigorous training in emergency fire simulations

Ten fire recruits hired to fill newly created staff vacancies are working through an intensive training course learning the latest in fire fighting and emergency services strategies in a training academy program sponsored by the Orland Fire Protection District.

The new firefighters will not only fill vacancies but also eliminate overtime burdens on the Orland Fire Protection District’s firefighters who often have to fill positions with extra work duties.

OFPD Fire Chief Ken Brucki joined with his key training team leadership at a public demonstration of the rigorous training new recruits receive. Leading the training for the OFPD are Lt. David Piper, the Training & Safety Officer, and Mike Seifert and Carl Jones, both firefighters and graduates of the district’s training academy program.

“We have been providing this intense training now for several years,” Brucki said as the training session began Friday at the Fire District’s Training Center at 10728 West 163rd Place in Orland Park.

“We use what we have learned and work with the new recruits to ensure they have the same level of competency in fighting fires and providing emergency services.”

Brucki said the district’s 10 new firefighter trainees are evaluated in a variety of fire and emergency simulations including fighting fires, rescue and equipment management. Every OFPD recruit must be professionally trained both as a firefighter and as a paramedic.

“The recruits train 8 hours every day. Their day begins with a regimented exercise program to help eliminate injuries caused by muscle strains & sprains, which is one of the most frequent injuries firefighters experience,” Piper said as the recruits warmed up Friday morning at the Pro Sports Performance gym, 10649 163rd Place in Orland Park, located one block east of the OFPD Training Center.

Piper said the one-hour initial exercise program at Pro Sports Performance helps the recruits prepare for the physical stress involved in carrying and moving large equipment at emergency scenarios

“After that, we put them through a series of fire scenarios to build up their experience and knowledge on how to fight fires and provide emergency services during emergency situations.”

The 10 recruits were hired on May 9 and officially entered the training academy on May 12. Their probation period includes nine weeks of hands-on training followed by assignment to a fire station, ending with graduation one year later on May 9, 2015.

Piper, Seifert and Jones led the trainees through a specific exercise in which a training building was set on fire on the first floor. Teams of trainees, led by instructors, covered each of the key areas, connecting the hoses to the fire hydrant, scoping out the scene to identify any civilians in the building, and coordinating the response to the fire and smoke. One team approached to extinguish the fire, a second team climbed to the building’s roof to perform ventilation, while another scaled the building via ground ladders from the front to “rescue” several “victims.”

“I think they did very well. I think they are going to make great additions to the OFPD district,” Piper said after the exercise. “The goal is to make sure they are well trained professionals, fire fighters and paramedics, and are prepared to respond and service the community and the OFPD. Our number one goal is service to the community.”

OFPD Board of Trustees President Jim Hickey praised the district’s training program noting that not only does it save the district funds, but also has been recognized as one of the country’s best training programs.

“We have the finest firefighters in the country and much of that comes from the training that they receive from experienced and qualified professionals,” Hickey said.

“Residents of our district feel very secure and confident that the Fire District can respond to any emergency situation and circumstance quickly and successfully. That’s a confidence that reflects that tremendous effort that our firefighters make to respond to the community’s emergency and paramedic needs."

Afterwards, trainees Jason Postma and Martin Majda spoke with reporters who were allowed to observe and record the training session.

“We’re learning from a great group, an experienced group. Their knowledge and experience is vast. The dedication to the community plays into this. We are here to serve the residents,” trainee Majda said.

“The Orland Fire Protection District is the best fire department in the country and everyone in fire service wants to work here. This is the top of the line for this profession.”

Postma added, “The training we received has a huge focus on the fundamentals of firefighting and on service to the community. The Orland Fire Protection District has the highest level of dedication to professionalism and the deepest unwavering commitment to the community it serves.”

The 10 trainees include: Brian Paliga, James Logan, Jason Postma, Justin Dublin, Kory Tuburan, Mark Hogan, Martin Majda, Matt Giermala, Matthew Hoover, and Steven Prohaska.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Orland Fire Foundation raises more than $13,000 at fundraiser

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Orland Fire Foundation raises more than $13,000 at fundraiser

The rejuvenated Orland Fire Protection District Foundation raised more than $13,000 towards its charitable programs during its fundraiser last week at 94 West Steak & Seafood Restaurant.

The event was held on Wednesday May 15 and attracted more than 100 participants. This year, the Foundation published an Ad Book which helped raise additional monies for its charitable projects.

Those projects include the Kids Fire and Life Safety Camp, The Community Care and Knox Box Program, and scholarships for high school graduates seeking careers in fire service.

“We¹re very pleased at the turnout and the support we have received for the Foundation from residents of the Orland Fire Protection District,” said Patricia Brucki, chairperson of the Foundation Fundraiser and member of the Foundation Board.

“As everyone knows, the money we raise goes to support many important public service projects that help to make our community safer and to raise public awareness for fire safety.”

Brucki, who is married to OFPD Chief Ken Brucki, said that the event raised enough money for the Foundation to launch its scholarship program for next year.

“One of our goals was to raise enough money so we could provide scholarships to encourage high school graduates to seek careers in fire service and I think we have achieved that goal,” Brucki said.

Many elected officials attended the event including Orland Hils Mayor Kyle Hastings, Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth “Liz” Doody Gorman and members of the Fire District Board including Fire District President Jim Hickey, Trustee Jayne Schirmacher and Fire District Personnel Commissioner Craig Schmidt.

“I think the taxpayers and homeowners are very proud of what the Orland Fire Protection District has done over the past few years to hold the line on costs while maintaining the best fire district in the country,” Gorman said.

Schirmacher welcomed the attendees on behalf of Hickey and the Board of Trustees, and thanked the Foundation volunteer board members and committee for their efforts in organizing the event.

Brucki also expressed gratitude to the volunteers including members of the Senior Advisory Committee, and also Fire District volunteers Gerry Strunka, Jerry Ruggio, Joan Pickens, Bob Palermo, Jannette Walsh, and RJ Stachnich.

Brucki said that the event also collected more than 50 bags of food that were to be delivered to the Orland Park Pantry.

More than 70 individuals, officials and organizations contributed to the foundation event. Also attending were the District¹s senior administrators and Battalion Chiefs, and representatives of local businesses who have participated in the district¹s CPR and AED training programs.

The foundation encourages the community to take advantage of free CPR classes and the upcoming Kids fire and life Safety camp this July.

A copy of the Foundation program booklet will be made available online for the public to view.

For more information, visit