Lowell looks to expand volunteer firefighter roster

2013-06-15T20:32:00Z 2013-06-15T22:58:19Z Lowell looks to expand volunteer firefighter rosterMelanie Csepiga Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
June 15, 2013 8:32 pm  • 

LOWELL | Concerns about daytime emergency responses have prompted the Lowell Town Council to look at expanding the roster at the town's Volunteer Fire Department.

Since that is not Lowell's decision to make, Council Vice President Craig Earley, D-1st, said he will arrange a meeting with Cedar Creek, West Creek and Eagle Creek township trustees to decide any changes.

Charlie Scott, representing both the department and Tri-Creek Emergency Medical Services, told the council recently about a 35-person cap imposed on the roster and the lack of enough daytime responders.

"That 35 cap was on 20 years ago when I was a firefighter," Earley said. "All the wants and needs are the same now as when we went after a fire territory."

Lowell proponents, including Earley, abandoned efforts to establish a fire territory in December when Cedar Creek Township Trustee Alice Dahl declined to participate, citing a new tax it would require.

The townships foot the bill to equip each volunteer at an estimated $2,500 to $3,000. Additionally, the townships pay a $200 annual clothing allowance per firefighter.

Lowell Councilman Don Parker, D-3rd, suggested the council and townships look at merging the fire and ambulance services, a possibility also suggested by Scott.

Earley said there is a growing urgency to fix the situation. Three times in the past three weeks, firefighting-trained EMTs responded to a fire because there were no daytime responders from the Volunteer Fire Department.

"Something's going to happen one of these days," he said.

Scott has said the planned Illiana Expressway presents an added challenge.

"The (Volunteer Fire Department) has told Illiana that without some monetary reimbursement, another 12 miles of high-speed highway is impossible," he said.

The department now responds to emergencies on stretches of Interstate 65 and U.S. 41.

"We've noticed a 15 percent increase in calls to I-65 over the past five years," Earley said.

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