Editorials

Volunteer firefighters at one-third the budget sounds like a hot idea

Should the O’Fallon Fire Department go full-time? Fire chief weighs in.

O’Fallon is growing but still has a volunteer, or paid-on-call, fire department. Fire Chief Brent Saunders discusses whether there is a need to go full-time.
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O’Fallon is growing but still has a volunteer, or paid-on-call, fire department. Fire Chief Brent Saunders discusses whether there is a need to go full-time.

In a state where too many politicians consider your bank account their bank account, O’Fallon offers an old-fashioned way of doing things that still works: The volunteer fire department.

O’Fallon Fire Rescue has been around since 1891. They operate with 46 volunteers and four full-time staffers.

Their responsibilities have definitely grown in area and population, but they are handling things so well that they recently were ranked in the top 15 percent of fire departments in Illinois. Of about 1,000 calls a year, only 10 to 20 are actual structure fires.

“Having less than a full-time fire department certainly doesn’t mean that our fire department is deficient in the services they offer,” Mayor Herb Roach said.

So here might be the biggest point of pride: Those volunteers doing a solid job mean homeowner insurance rates are lower as well as property taxes. O’Fallon’s fire department operates on a $2 million budget, but were it to be a full-time paid department the tab would be an additional $4 million.

One-third the budget: Makes you wonder whether other communities should look at replacing their full-time firefighters with volunteers.

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