McHenry County Fire Chief’s Association Has Concerns with the UDO

The UDO continues to show its warts as the McHenry County Board works through the process. Here is a letter that was sent by a friend of the McHenry County Blog.

October 13, 2014

Vice Chairman of the McHenry County Board Jim Heisler

TO: Vice Chair, J. Heisler
Peter Austin, Administrator

FROM: Chief Rich Tobiasz


The McHenry County Fire Chiefs have recently learned about a couple of issues written into the new Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) that raise concerns for us, particularly as they relate to fire safety. Association President Rick Gallas has established a committee of three Chiefs and one Captain who are well versed in fire prevention and who will, on Tuesday October 21, 2014, discuss these issues at a meeting in Crystal Lake. We would like to have the opportunity to comment before the entire UDO is approved. Dennis Sandquist has been invited and has advised us that he will attend. You and/or any of the County Board members are also welcome to attend.

We do not know how fast this ordinance will be approved in total, but request that we have the opportunity to meet and comment. I see that your next meeting is the 21st at night and we would be able to have someone attend with the comments from the Chiefs.

Should you have any questions, feel free to contact me at the Spring Grove Fire Station at 815-675-2450, Chief Gallas at Richmond FPD, 815-678-3672, or Chief Bradbury at Marengo Fire Distirct, 815-568-8912.


Richard Tobiasz


McHenry County Fire Chief’s Association Has Concerns with the UDO — 6 Comments

  1. Ever since 9/11, firemen have been placed on a pedestal.

    It appears to me they are given unlimited latitude relative to salaries, benefits and new equipment.

    When there is the slightest accident they now dispatch multiple units of equipment.

    When there is most any kind of fire, multiple engines are dispatched.

    For this we, the taxpayers, pay a lot.

    Fire Districts in the County collect $50,564,460 in property tax.

    The fact is, if your house catches fire in rural McHenry County, grab your family and insurance policy and get out.

    Most of the unincorporated area of the County has no municipal water supply – tanker trucks carry a limited amount of water.

    The people requesting the meeting likely will want sprinklers built into every new structure and during a rehab.

    In a society which promotes abortion I get somewhat p.o.’d when anyone says “sprinklers save lives”.

    A good write relative to: “If it saves one life” can be found here:

  2. Totally agree Connecting.

    Too add, the County should ask it’s insurance provider to come and review the chiefs proposals.

    What if the provider found that yes, these recommendations should cut the County’s Fire District costs in half?

    Would be funny to see all the backtracking, to save their little kingdoms.

  3. I think one of their major concerns is the density and proximity of structures allowed in the UN-incorporated areas by the UDO and how this would increase the fire risk associated to area residents.

    This issue was requested to be brought up to the entire board by the fire chiefs prior to approval but the committee chair wanted the ordinance voted on immediately without a number of the more conservative board members present or additional comment from the residents.

    I realize that this ordinance has been worked on for a couple of years and appreciate the work of the committee and the chair but comments from the fire chief should be taken into account prior to ordinance approval as it couldn’t hurt.

  4. Several years ago, planning and development put forward a plan to allow attached homes in unincorporated McHenry County.

    This would save space and eliminate the need to gobble up land, was the cry.

    It looked acceptable also to the County Board until I pointed out that only 2 sheets of drywall in the living areas separated the families.

    There was no requirement to partition the attic to stop the spread of fire, so it was like living in one big house.

    Sprinklers were an option, but I and the County Board shied away from making them mandatory, and yet recognized the danger inherent in the plan.

    If any one of the other families doesn’t follow proper safety rules – i.e. smoking in bed, overlamping Christmas Tree Lights, mischievous children playing with fire – you will suffer the consequences.

    The alternative would be massive bureaucratic overreach into your personal life, which we certainly cannot accept.

    That is why single family homes with at least 20 feet on their side setbacks are best sellers in our County and throughout the Country.

    Now comes the current UDO, which allows the possibility of closing the distance between burnable appendages to structures to zero on new construction and remodeling.

    A burnable ramp can go right to the property line, and a burnable porch with a roof or a wooden stairway can extend to 5 feet from the building.

    The Building can be positioned 5 feet from the line.

    Sounds like Zero Clearance to me.

    Good contractors will not do this – but the profit motive for using every square inch of property will certainly come into play in the coming years.

    During the Blitz in London, fireman had to dynamite buildings in order to contain fires when their mains were broken and no water was available.

    With our Rural Areas, many people are far away from bodies of water, and every gallon of water is trucked – sometimes for miles.

    Without water systems aren’t we in the same position?

    Will our fire brigades have to carry dynamite and eviction notices so they can dynamite a structure to prevent a whole community going up in flames?

    I hope this is not the case, and I hope the public will respect the Fire Chiefs’ concerns about the Safety of our County – because they have seen the tragedies close up.

  5. It kinds of looks like this was pushed through in quite a bit of a hurry.

    Who would stand to benefit???

  6. Tauser: Any attorney who authored the Ordinance would be the natural choice of anyone wanting to usurp the original intent of the ordinance.

    I dare say that person would stand to profit considerably, “Say it ain’t so (you fill in the blank)”

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