CENTRAL, Ill. (WCIA) — Firefighters in Champaign and Charleston have seen a significant increase in calls for both fires and medical emergencies.
Charleston fire Chief, Steve Bennett said, “In 2021 we set a record for the number of fire and ems calls with the Charleston fire department.”
Bennett, says it leaves them with a tough question: What are they going to do? He says they have retirements on the horizon, and it’s going to be a challenge to stay fully staffed.
Bennett said, “With the number of applicants that we get. We’ve had to test multiple times just to get one person.” He said, “I’m not sure what the answer is going to be or where it’s going to take us, but it’s definitely concerning.”
If you average the number of calls throughout the whole year it comes down to a call every hour and a half according said, Bennett. Both city’s chiefs say the pandemic has led to the increase.
“As long as I’ve been chief which is seven years this is the highest increase in call volume year over year.”
But Charleston firefighters are also being called to more lift assists. Overall, It’s not a trend Bennett expected.
“Our population with the census has actually decreased over the years and with the student enrollment at Eastern Illinois University has also gone down with the actual students on campus versus virtual or what not our call volume has still gone up despite that,” said Bennett
Champaign’s Fire Chief Gary Ludwig expects higher numbers as the population grows every year, but he says it’s just part of the job to be ready for anything.
“Its my expectation and we should always plan for that. That number will even increase in 2022,” Ludwig said.
Decatur’s fire department also had a record number of calls this year.