Fermilab firefighters aid surrounding communities
Fermilab firefighters Bryan Needham and Eric Poss test the jaws of life.
Fermilab firefighters helped battle a Batavia business fire in late February. Two months earlier, they had responded to a Batavia house fire and manned a Batavia fire station while local firefighters fought a blaze.
That amount of neighborly pitching in wasn't unusual.
Fermilab routinely helps surrounding towns through fire fighting, equipment sharing, providing training and manning fire stations emptied by emergency calls.
“We support them with additional equipment and personnel,” said Fermilab Fire Chief Jack Steinhoff. “And they do the same for us.”
The symbiotic relationship strengthens fire services for Fermilab and some of the area towns, including Batavia, Geneva, North Aurora, Warrenville, Wheaton, West Chicago and St. Charles.
In 2007, Fermilab firefighters responded to 161 emergency, aid or fire alarm calls in surrounding towns, up from 119 in 2006.
Helping other towns comes on top of responding to incidents at Fermilab, which included 225 calls last year.
“We are averaging about a call a day,” Steinhoff said. “This has pretty much been our standard for the last three years.”
All but four of the 19 firefighters on the Fermilab department also serve as volunteer or paid on-call firefighters for nearby departments, including eight in Fox Valley towns.
Firefighters come to Fermilab after earning a state certificate at other departments. Full-time positions at Fermilab give firefighters the job security to keep helping out in their hometown departments, which have limited full-time slots.
“We hire from other departments so the firefighters come with training. We send them back to help local departments with more training received from here. It benefits both places,” said Fermilab Battalion Chief Larry Meyer, who also serves as the Stickney fire chief.
Though a system of mutual and automatic aid, Fermilab firefighters have responded to industrial fires, house fires, apartment fires and a church fire in recent years.
“We want to help our neighbors,” Meyer said.