Representatives from more than 50 Illinois fire service organizations gathered on June 2nd in Alsip, IL for the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association of Illinois’ 17th Annual Fire Services Home Day. The event was held at the Sprinkler Fitters Local 281 Training Center.
The fire professionals were joined by elected officials and staffers from a number of state and federal offices with more than 20 fire service companies displaying their products.
Paul Darley, president, and CEO of Darley, founded and co-chairs the annual event with retired Schiller Park Fire Chief Tom Deegan and Barrington Fire Chief John Christian.
“Our Home Day is when we meet senators, congressional representatives, and staffers when they are home from Washington, D.C. We have a day when we visit the legislators in Washington, D.C., and call that Hill Day,” Darley explained.
The events are held to keep the fire service issues in front of Illinois’ federal and state legislators. U.S. Representatives Sean Casten and Marie Newman both addressed the attendees with other federal legislators sending messages via their staffers and recording video messages.
Many fire departments have been positively impacted by the AFG (Assistance to Firefighters Grant) and SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response). Darley noted, “This event helps to educate the representatives on the important legislative issues Illinois fire departments are facing. By maintaining relationships with our senators and congressional representatives, we are also mobilized to quickly address any issues that arise.”
Through the AFG, local fire departments are able to apply for grants to help purchase new and apparatus and equipment to replace outdated equipment that no longer meets the safety standards of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
Event speakers included Alsip Fire Chief Tom Styczynski of the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association; Chief John Kachanuk, president of the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association; James Moore, director of leadership and command programs at the Illinois Fire Service Institute; and Glenn Ericksen, chief executive officer of the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS).
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said in a statement, “I commend those in the line of duty in Illinois and firefighters across the country for their service and helping to keep their communities safe.”
Durbin added, “I remain committed to supporting local fire departments through federal programs such as the Assistance to Firefighters Grant and Supporting and Improving Rural EMS Needs (SIREN) Act, which I authored to provide rural fire departments with funding for staffing and equipment.”
Organizers report that 49% of all fire engines and pumpers are at least 15 years old, with 50% of all fire departments lacking enough portable radios to equip all responders on a shift. More than half of all fire departments cannot equip all firefighters on a shift with a self-contained breathing apparatus.
Event organizers called on federal legislators to restore funding for the AFG and SAFER Programs at $750 million each for the fiscal year 2023 and encouraged elected officials to join the Congressional Fire Caucus.
“The Illinois Home Day event has become a model for other states,” Darley said, “the grassroots effort Illinois has developed has made a tremendous impact in Washington, DC on legislative issues facing the fire service.”