Privatized Fire Department Rolls Forward in Lakewood

Newly appointed Lakewood Fire Chief Tony Huemann garnered unanimous “conditional” membership for his new ire department in McHenry County’s Mutual Aid Box Alarm System on Wednesday afternoon.

While the organization’s members, primarily fire chiefs, seemed to share the concern voiced by Crystal Lake Fire Chief Jim Moore about the Lakewood response plan, they passed a motion to grant membership based on Lakewood’s meeting these conditions by the next (end of February) MABAS meeting:

  • Obtaining fire fighting equipment
  • Having a fire station up and active
  • Having a personnel-on-call roster
  • Having box cards (a list prioritizing how many pieces of equipment and personnel that neighboring fire departments can count on using in an emergency)
  • Having communications
  • Agreement to pay MABAS fees

One chief noted that conditional membership is “actually protecting ourselves.”

Another condition was suggested, but rejected:

A report on how much Lakewood assisted other departments between now and the February meeting.

One chief noted that such a study might be “discriminatory.”

And, as Hebron-Alden-Greenwood Chief Lloyd Laufer put it,

“If they check me, I might be in trouble.

“If they call, we’re going,” he said of his totally volunteer department.

Indeed, during the discussion–with Huemann out of the room–several chiefs declared they would assist Lakewood, regardless of whether it was accepted into MABAS.

Earlier one chief said, “Whether they’re in this system or not, we’d help a stricken community.” He did add, “I don’t want to take command. I don’t want that liability.”

At one point early on, Huntley Fire Chief Jim Saletta committed his department to assisting Lakewood whether or not it was allowed to join the mutual assistance pact.

Woodstock Chief Ralph Webster said, “We’d be hypocrites if we didn’t admit that we send men to communities that don’t have staffing” (problems), noting it was “not too long since we couldn’t (cover) our town.”

Apparently Watson worked previously with Huemann during the 23 years the new Lakewood chief was with the McHenry Township Fire Protection District, because he added,

“I think Tony is a man of integrity.”

“Like Jim Saletta says, I’m going to go if there’s a need,” the Woodstock chief concluded.

One chief sitting in front added,

“We’re going to go if there’s a need.

“We can’t not go.”

And, that seemed to be the general attitude of these professional fire fighters.

They didn’t put it this way, but it seemed obvious to me that they fight fires, they don’t play politics.

The Lakewood chief did seem to reveal that the January 1st starting date was troubling him.

“Our target date is January 1st. January 1st is going to be a difficult target to meet.

“We have asked for an extension. Crystal Lake and Lakewood are communicating.”

Crystal Lake Chief Moore offered more reservations, including for the safety of his men if they were called to help fight a Lakewood fire.

This is the first time a new member has been admitted to MABAS.

As one chief observed, “We’ve gone down. We’ve never gone up.”

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Since this is the first MABAS meeting I have attended, I cannot identify all the speakers by name. If anyone would like to email me who said what, I’ll be happy to add the identifiers.

The top picture is of Lakewood Village Fire Chief Jeff Huemann. The shot of the room during the presentation is next.

Below that is a picture that shows Barry Valentine questioning Huemann with (from left to right at the front table) Huntley Fire Protection District Chief Jim Saletta, Valentine, and MABAS President Cary Fire Protection District Chief Jeff Macko.

Huntley Fire Protection District Chief Jim Saletta is next, on the left. Woodstock Fire Protection District Chief Ralph Webster is seen talking to Jeff Huemann after the meeting adjourned. Next on the right can be seen Crystal Lake Fire Chief Jim Moore.

Finally, there are informal shots of those attending after the meeting was adjourned.

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