MATTOON, Ill. (WCIA) — Superior Service Company President George Miller was on his phone much of Friday morning. He was trying to figure out what to do after a fire destroyed his business.
“We’re just trying to get by hour by hour right now,” says Miller. “We’re just running by the clock. I’m just glad nobody was hurt. That’s priority.”
Part of the reason why nobody was hurt was thanks to the response from the Mattoon Fire Department. They were able to put it out in an hour and a half. But they say they could have used some more help.
“In particular, we could have used an extra couple guys on scene from the get-go because we had to use our ladder-truck,” says Shift Captain Rex Barnes. “It was a big, big fire. We needed aerial master streams and we did not have the man power to get our ladder-truck at the very beginning.”
Twenty years ago, Mattoon Fire had a minimum of ten people on duty and 43 total firefighters. But now, they have a minimum of eight and a total of only 23. They say that is fewer than what their contract calls for.
“The more our man power gets drawn down, the more unsafe it is for the community members and for firefighters,” says Barnes.
About 90 percent of the company’s equipment was destroyed and they were told the building is a total loss. For Miller though, he was happy the fire department kept it from getting worse.
“I’m very happy with the fire department and I’m happy with Mattoon Police Department,” says Miller. “They were here last night taking care of it. Talking to me, explaining to me what’s going on, what I need to look for.”
Miller is currently looking for a temporary home for him and his 60 employees. He says he hopes to have that in place by next week.
Mattoon Fire is hoping to raise their staff back to 30. But Mattoon Police believe they need more staff as well. They said last month they have hit a 50 year officer low. They have 35 officers, and want to raise it to 42.