Illinois Fire Service Home Day

June 14, 2022
Representatives from more than 50 Illinois fire service organizations recently gathered to keep important issues in front of state and federal legislators.

ALSIP, IL (June 13, 2022) – Representatives from more than 50 Illinois fire service organizations recently gathered in Alsip, IL for the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association of Illinois’ 17th Annual Fire Services Home Day, 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 vendors displaying their wares.

Paul Darley, president and CEO of Darley, the fire department equipment supplier in Itasca, IL, founded and co-chaired the annual event with retired Schiller Park Fire Chief Tom Deegan. Alsip Fire Chief Tom Styczynski and Alsip Fire served as the hosting department.

“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 fire service issues in front of Illinois’ federal and state legislators. U.S. Representatives Sean Casten (D-6) and Marie Newman (D-3) both addressed the attendees with other federal legislators sending messages via their staffers and recording video messages.

“Virtually all fire departments have been positively impacted as a result of funding from the AFG (Assistance to Firefighters Grants Equipment Program) and SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response),” Darley said, adding, “This event helps us to push the important legislative issues we are facing. We are also mobilized to quickly address issues that arise.”

According to the FAMA (Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association) FEMSA (Fire and Emergency Manufacturers and Services Association) Government Affairs Committee, “The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program was established by Congress in 2001 to assist communities in equipping our nation’s first responders, including firefighters and EMS personnel.”

Local fire departments are able to apply for grants to purchase new and needed equipment to replace older, outdated equipment that no longer meets the safety standards of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).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.”

According to event organizers, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Equipment Program fills critical equipment gaps for approximately 1.1 million first responders.

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.

Representative Mike Quigley (D-5) recorded a video greeting for the event, opening with praise for firefighters who “dedicate their lives to ensure the community is safe.”

Quigley said that he was pleased to help pass legislation benefiting a number of fire related organizations, adding, “As a member of the Congressional Appropriations Committee, I’m proud to secure funding to get our first responders the equipment they need so they are prepared for every situation.”  

The Assistance to Firefighters Grants Equipment Program (AFG) appropriates funds to local fire departments through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Because of this program, departments of all sizes can purchase personal protective clothing, self-contained breathing apparatus, personal alert safety system devices, fire apparatus and other safety and response equipment.

Event organizers called on federal legislators to restore funding for the AFG and SAFER Programs at $750 million each for fiscal year 2023, and encouraged elected officials to join the Congressional Fire Caucus.  

“The Illinois Home Day has been a model for other states,” Darley said, adding, “Our grass roots effort has had a tremendous impact in Washington, DC on legislative issues facing the fire service.” 

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