Volunteer Firefighter Tries To Beat Back Blaze -- By Himself

Budget cuts decimated the town's paid fire department

Volunteer Firefighter Tries to Put Out Fire Alone

Washington Park, Ill. volunteer firefighter Dante Brooks had to fight a blaze at a vacant home by himself for 40 minutes before finally getting volunteer help from the town and surrounding communities, according to KSDK-TV. Flames were spreading to an occupied house next door. Police evacuated the family.

"It was my main priority," Brooks said. "I wasn't worried about the house burning. I was protecting the home and the family next door."

But how does a firefighter come to take on a fire by himself? Budget cuts, pure and simple. The town of Washington Park has had major financial problems, according to the Belleville News-Democrat. As of last summer, the town was in the red by $7 million. One of the strategies to deal with the issues was to lay off all the paid staff of the fire department other than an interim chief and to lay off two part-time workers and one contractor from the street department.

The firefighters made $10 an hour. At the same time, the town hired a $40,000 a year consultant to evaluate government operations and an urban planner for $25,000. "What are the people supposed to do if their houses catch on fire?" asked one resident at a meeting of the village board.

Washington Park's firefighting staff is all volunteer other than the one paid person. Fires are normally battled by crews, not only because it typically takes more than one person's work to control a fire, but for safety.

Talking to a KSDK reporter on camera, Brooks said that solo firefighting can be dangerous. "I had to get pulled out by the police officer because the fire kind of rolled on me."

When asked if the volunteer system was working for the town, another volunteer, Andre Henderson, said, "No, it's not."

According to the report, the town's mayor blamed a "communication breakdown between volunteers" is why it took so long for Brooks to receive help.

No one was injured, according to the News-Democrat, although the vacant home was a complete loss.

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Barnaby S Smithfield

well if their priorities are government planning are streets...let their houses burn they deserve what they get for letting these government officials live let alone be elected

February 27 2014 at 5:42 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
JIM

The liberal bait and switch= We want to tax you more but voters don't like to be taxed more so we make up some BS and cut critical life saving services first (not ridiculous politicians pay and pensions or anything common sense like that). Eventually the taxpayers get scared into voting themselves a tax raise, the money from those new taxes buy back a fraction of the original emergency services and the rest goes into some politicians pay (read pocket) or pet projects that arent really needed. Rinse and repeat.

February 27 2014 at 5:29 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Vegasrick

Volunteer fire departments have work for many years in much larger areas than this. It's easy, go door to door taking donations to pay for the needed equipment and keep a list of those that donate and those that don't. Works great.

February 27 2014 at 1:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Stacey

I was a volunteer for a while and first on scene to a house fire once. People don't realize all the components that are involved in just getting water on the fire. You have to report and give an analysis of the situation for incoming personnel, as well as chock and prepare the engine to pump the needed water while regulating pressure, fully pull out a hose (the only one i would be able to handle alone was the 3" normally used for ground fires), charge the hose at the engine, which fills it with water, and should NEVER been done without some manning it, all the while making sure you are fully geared up (full bunker gear, SCBA etc). If you did this alone, you couldn't regulate the amount of water remaining in the engine, hear who's coming to aid or report back as to status. You have limited visibility and are basically fighting blind. It's very scary and should NEVER be done alone! smh
It's hard as someone hardwired to help, just to sit back and watch a fire destroy a property, but you could never safely handle the needed equipment alone. All he could really do is report the severity of the situation and possibly keep the surrounding properties cool to prevent spreading.
Public safety should be first priority. hands down!

February 27 2014 at 12:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
M.A.P

Lets be realistic here. I have been a Professional Fire fighter in my city for over 20yrs. They is no way in hell that this should ever happen. He may think he did the correct thing, but in retrospect if something may have happened a law suit was just waiting ti happen. This is the problem with a volunteer dept. There is no way for one fireman to run the pump correctly while checking hose pressures along with stretching a line and then using the hose line by himself. As per NFPA safety guidelines that have been established, there are always suppose to be 2 fireman releaving the 2 fireman that leave the structure. Its called 2 in ,2 out. If man power dictates. Plus it was a vacant building. The fire service is one of the only jobs were where volunteers can still apply.

February 25 2014 at 5:06 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to M.A.P's comment
gov111w

Well they got $65,000 worth of paper pushes and no firefighters at all. I'd sue the township until they get their priorities straight .....

February 25 2014 at 4:49 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
tdiplaci

Hats off to this dedicated firefighter. Too many consultants and planners are hired with tax dollars. Waste of time and money.

February 25 2014 at 4:18 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
ashespaw

Typical Democrat as Mayor. Lay off the necessary workers and hire consultants. Can the consultants keep some turnouts at home and respond to the fires? Can the Mayor?

February 25 2014 at 2:07 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to ashespaw's comment
frankbvt

It's took bad your bias got in the way of actually reading this story. Nowhere in the story is the political party of the mayor mentioned. What is mentioned is the name of the NEWSPAPER, which is the News-Democrat. Again, I wish you Tea Baggers would learn how to read and comprehend before you comment.....

February 25 2014 at 2:55 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to frankbvt's comment
jfsinc1929

How do you know he's a "teabagger"? I wish you would quit assuming things also.

February 25 2014 at 4:29 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down
prosymom

The newspaper is the News-Democrat. You have NO IDEA what political affiliation the mayor may be.

February 25 2014 at 4:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Michelle Neff

How des a vacnant house catch fire all by itself? That's always been a question that I have never been able to answer,

February 25 2014 at 1:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Michelle Neff's comment
nonosstang

Some idiot lights it on fire on purpose . . . electrical issues . . . squatters . . . the gates of hell open up underneath it . . . the possibilities are endless . . .

February 27 2014 at 12:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
patiodaddy

America and Americans are flat broke. This is not really News to anyone with half a brain but you will see more and more of this in the coming days and months. VOTE OUT ALL DEMOCRATS whenever you have the chance.

February 25 2014 at 12:58 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to patiodaddy's comment
Al P.

What ? Then what will the new GOP regime do for us ? More tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations ? Screw the little guy to protect their special interests that put them in office ? I have a better idea, do away with all those consumer protections so industry can think up other abuses to run roughshod over us. That will fix the problem won't it ? even half brains can figure that out, right ?

February 25 2014 at 3:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
flyingfortresb17

How stupid are you? Democrats and republican are all crooks, we just have to determine who is less a crook.

February 25 2014 at 4:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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