Illinois Whackers busted Impersonating FFs
They had a fire truck, medical gear and dressed the part but they weren't real Firefighters.
They called themselves the Lost Creek Fire Company and they hailed from the Wadsworth/Gurnee area.
As it turns out they were "lost" in more ways than one.
Legislation proposed by state Rep. Michael Boland, D-East Moline, to make impersonating a firefighter a felony actually has its roots in the Lost Creek Fire Company.
This group, which called itself a throwback to the old days when anyone could be a volunteer, bought a fire engine and a second vehicle, got uniforms, radios and medical supplies. They had some fliers printed and a Website at one point.
According to Michael Stried, Winthrop Harbor fire chief and head of the Lake County Fire Chief's Association, they began showing up here and there in county last year saying they wanted to help out.
"They were totally out in left field," Stried said.
Their undoing and the reason for the new state law was their decision to self-dispatch themselves more than 100 miles to downstate Utica last spring when a tornado devasted the LaSalle County town and a statewide emergency plan summoned fire departments from across Illinois.
The Lost Creek Fire Company apparently drove with lights flashing the whole way and just drove up to the scene expecting to get into the disaster zone.
But the volunteers didn't have a security validation code to give to the incident commander so they were told to park to the side until authorities straightened things out.
"They said they just came down to help. They had no reason to be there," said Ottawa Fire Department Chief Richard Scott, who was the incident commander of the tornado-ravaged site.
"They didn't know the code. They couldn't pass the test in any way shape or form," he said. They were sent to a staging area and Illinois State Police questioned them, although state police say they don't have a report.
Scott said they could have posed a danger to themselves, other firefighters and paramedics, and the tornado victims themselves.
"We're responsible for everyone on the site," he said. "We just sent them home. They weren't too happy."
Jay Reardon, the fire chief for Northbrook and head of MABUS (mutual aid box alarm system) couldn't believe it when he heard about the Lost Creek Fire Company. He said the incident commander called him and said, "You aren't going to believe this."
"I thought I had seen about everything," said Reardon. "Just a bunch of fire buffs on a truck who rode over 100 miles. I told him, 'You got to be kidding me.' It blew me over."
And that's when the fire chiefs discovered there is no legislation covering the impersonation of a firefighter.
"We found out the system worked (because they were denied access to the site), but we also found a hole in the system that needs to be plugge," he said.
Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller said the incident was the catalyst for the new law.
Authorities also looked into reports of fire company members going to schools, but no charges resulted.
This would have been a crime for one member of the fire company, Jay Katz, who is a convicted child molester. A registered sex offender, he lists Lindenhurst as his home on the Lake County Sheriff's Office Sex Offender Website.
He is formally of Green Oaks and had owned a fire extinguisher company in Highland Park when he was charged with fondling two young girls, including a 9-year-old.
Waller said there are statutes protecting police officers "and certainly there should be a similar provision for people impersonating fire officials. I think this legislation is long overdue."
Winthrop Harbor's Stried ran into the group at last year's Jubilee Days Parade in Zion over the Labor Day weekdend and took some pictures of their rig.
"They showed up five minutes before the parade and no one knew where they came from," said Stried. He pulled them out of the parade line when he noticed that both of their vehicles had the same license plate.
Winthrop Harbor police were notified because they cover the Wadsworth area by contract and they impounded the vehicles for a time because of the license plate registration issue.
Winthrop Harbor police were not immediately available to discuss the Lost Creek Fire Company as were the Lake County Sheriff's Office. The names of the fire buffs, except for Katz, were unavailable.
"They said Utica was their first major response. It was their demise," said Stried.
"We stopped Lost Creek in their tracks. It's nothing personal, but it's the way to do things," he said.
Waukegan Fire Chief Patrick Gallagher said it was scary that they found some outdated IV equipment inside the Lost Creek Fire Company's second vehicle.
"That was still on the rig. They could have used it on a human being," he said with disbelief.
"These guys were bad and they were dangerous," Gallagher said, adding that anyone can buy a fire truck and that's why they had one, It was still operable because it was only about 20 years old.
"I think we've chased them out of town," he said.
After reading all the information that has been posted here:
Originally posted by ChicagoFF
Aren't they just volunteers? Why are they impersonating and other vols aren't?
1. Training? Doesn't seem to be any.
2. District? They do not seem to be organized to protect a particular area, such as a FPD, Village, etc.
3. Dispatch? Someone who takes off on their own, a hundred miles, lights and sirens, without being dispatched by any recognized authority?
4. Vehicles? Splitting a set of licence tags, one on each of two vehicles? and were these vehicles properly insured?
And those are just a few things that I spotted, There's probably a lot more issues out there as well.
In Urban and Suburban areas, in this day and age, people still form Fire and Rescue Organizations, but not like that. Maryland has had a couple of new VFDs start up in the past year, BUT by following the rules, not just "Jumping in the pool" like these people (allegedly) did. Here, a VFD, TO START, must be incorporated by the state, have authority from the County to operate, be properly insured, Vehicles inspected and certified, meet minimum requirements for vehicles and equipment, have a minimum number of Volunteers trained as Firefighters, (and EMT-Bs if they respond to medical calls) Officers need additional training. Our newest VFD has 40 members, with a total of 6,200 hours of training over the past three years. It takes anywhere from a year to three years to go from a public meeting to organize a VFD, up to the point where you respond to your first call.
Here, we meet professional standards, or we don't operate.
I have to agree with my friend here. It is one thing for a group of local farmers or landowners to band together and purchase an old fire truck to protect thier barns and houses. This is still done around here today in areas of British Columbia that do not have any Fire Protection Agreements. The big point is that these folks, and the folks in thier area know who and what they are, and what they can do. No false sense that a professional department or rescue squad is coming.
Originally posted by hwoods
Here, we meet professional standards, or we don't operate.
When you slap together a band of individuals (no doubt well-intentioned) with an old BRT, haphazard training, and no formal certification or government authority or accreditation, and proceed to roam the plains looking for action, you are freelancing, and the public/emergency response community is not in a satisfactory position to evaluate your abilities.
If you wish to operate an emergency service in my district, on my residents, I (and the elected officials in my region) want to know you meet certain reasonable standards first.