Decatur, Ill (WAND) – Arson fires have left Decatur firefighters on the scene of extinguished fires waiting on assistance from the state fire marshal’s office. Retirements are leaving the department short handed as the city heads into the summer months.
Decatur has seen all three of its fire inspectors retire in recent months. The vacancies have not been filled while the financially strapped city does an analysis as to how to handle those positions.
Just this past week a suspected arson fire on Olive Street required firefighters to wait 35-to-40 extra minutes while waiting for the state fire inspector to arrive from Taylorville. Arson is a crime and you cannot leave the scene according to Fire Chief Jeff Abbott.
“We had to leave one fire company sitting at one house while five more went to another and the cities down to one fire truck, two fire trucks, to cover the other fifty-square miles,” Chief Abbott told WAND News.
Fire inspectors also take care of building code inspections throughout Decatur. With the retirements those code inspections are being handled by city employees from other departments.
The department is also in need of additional firefighters.
“Not only three fire inspectors we lost five other positions,” Abbott said. “With the two positions the city eliminated at the beginning of the year we’re down ten positions right now getting ready to go into our biggest vacation season which is summer.”
The city stated earlier this week it is facing a $5.4 million hole in its budget due to the COVID pandemic.