At least two fire departments halt responding to medical calls, citing staffing issues spurred by vaccine mandate

Local News

EFFINGHAM CO., Ill. (WCIA)– Firefighters won’t be responding to medical calls in the villages of Dieterich or Watson for now.

The small communities in Effingham county have volunteer fire departments. Dieterich Fire Protection District Chief Ross Martin said the volunteers handle both fire and EMS calls.

12 out of 21 volunteers in Dieterich have not complied with Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s vaccine mandate so Martin says, legally, they can’t respond to medical calls. Dieterich volunteer firefighters typically respond to medical calls first because EMS services out of Effingham and Jasper counties are farther away, Martin said.

They stopped responding to medical calls on Oct. 15, according to Martin. He said it’s not ideal but “it’s the best plan of action for now”.

“It is a vital thing that we need in our area, and I am praying that we can, you know, we can go back to being active as soon as possible,” Martin said. “I mean it’s something we really need in a rural community.”

Watson Fire Protection District Chief Darren Percival wouldn’t share how many firefighters were out-of-compliance with the governor’s mandate, but he said it’s likely affecting several other departments in the area. The decision was made off of advice from legal counsel, he added.

Martin said the Dieterich Fire Protection District is working on bringing in another ambulance service to help for the time being. Nothing has been decided yet.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.