Loan program helps fire departments

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SULLIVAN, Ill. (WCIA) — Fire departments across the state are getting new equipment thanks to a special loan program. Today, the Sullivan Fire Protection District showed off one of those new pieces. The program let them pay for it through loans without interest.

“These guys do this out of the goodness of their own heart. The least we can do is give them some good equipment.” said State Fire Marshal Matthew Perez.

“A lot of departments are running with 20-year-old trucks at least,” said Perez. “There’s a lot of upgrades in 20 years, right? You look at your cars or whatever else in that 20-year time span – a lot of upgrades. They need these upgrades. The construction of buildings is changing. The trucks have to change that, with the new equipment, right?”

Most of the loans go to all-volunteer or combination departments, like Sullivan’s.

“It’s just a large, capital expense that we don’t have to pay for all at once.” said Sullivan Fire Protection District Chief Mike Piper.

Sullivan’s department has been chosen for the loans three different times for a ladder truck, tanker, and ambulance. Their new tanker lets them carry a thousand more gallons of water than the old one.

“Most is our fires that we have are in the rural area and normally their businesses. A lot of them that we have are cabinet makers or cabinet builders or something to do with construction that has a lot of fuel for fire, like wood and those fires tend to be rather large when we have them.” said Piper.

Latham Fire Protection District is completely volunteer. They were picked twice, and they’re hoping they get picked again.

“We got that 40-year-old engine off the road, and we’ll be putting our firemen in something a lot newer.” said Latham Fire Protection District Trustee Dan Hawk. “We’re saving around $160,000, $180,000 in interest, so that’s significant for us.”

This loan program started around 2004. It hopes to eventually be completely self-funded. The loans have to be paid off within 20 years.

More than a million dollars have gone to departments in Central Illinois. That includes $350,000 in Latham, $250,000 for Maroa, along with $278,335 for Sullivan, and $300,000 for Thomasboro.

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