[cifnmedia] Volunteer firefighters seek job protection for times when duty calls

  • From: Sean & Kimberly Aaron <cifn@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: CIFN LIST <cifnmedia@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 2 Mar 2004 06:29:32 -0800 (PST)

Volunteer firefighters seek job protection for times when duty calls 

By PAT GUINANE H&R Springfield Bureau Writer 

SPRINGFIELD -- Volunteers who battle fires in small communities across Illinois 
cannot always avoid the hot seat when that duty makes them late for their 
regular jobs. 

"The vast majority of employers throughout the state are very good and 
understanding. I want to make that clear," said Colona Fire Chief John Swan. 
"There are just a few that really don't care who you are and what you've done 
-- they don't care if you saved a baby this morning or helped save somebody's 
home, because you're still late for work." 

Swan, vice president of the Illinois Firefighter's Association, argues that 
members of the "civil guard," including volunteer firefighters, should be 
afforded employment protections similar to members of the National Guard. 

After all, 70 percent of the state's fire departments rely on volunteers, 
according to the Illinois state fire marshal. The latest figures show some 
16,000 volunteers in Illinois. 

"I don't think most of us who live in cities where we have a paid force realize 
how important volunteer firefighters are," said state Rep. Mike Boland, D-East 

At the behest of the Illinois Firefighter's Association, Boland is sponsoring 
House Bill 4851, also known as the Volunteer Firefighter Job Protection Act. 

"Well, they've told me stories of people who have been fired," Boland said. 
"One was an amazing story, because the firefighter who got fired actually was 
out on a call fighting a fire at the company that fired him." 

In some cases, larger employers may not realize how important volunteer forces 
are to the state's small towns and villages. 

"In most cases, the smaller business understands," Swan said. "They're the 
hometown business and they understand the importance of keeping their 
firefighters there." 

Boland's legislation would also allow firefighters to sue their employers if 
they were fired because volunteer duties forced them to miss work or show up 
late. Similar laws are in place in seven other states, Swan said. 

Boland's proposal faced opposition last week from the Associated Fire Fighters 
of Illinois, the union that represents the state's paid firefighters. The group 
might push Boland to place a population cap on his legislation, so that it 
would not apply to larger departments. 

Pat Guinane can be reached at 789-0865. 

Sean A. Aaron (CIFN*1)
Central Illinois Fire Network

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