Several Illinois firefighters have quit after officials appointed a convicted arsonist as the head of their fire department.
As many as 10 volunteer firefighters with the Illinois department have quit their job after their chief was replaced by a man previously convicted of arson. The decision to appoint a new chief was taken after a board meeting on Monday, December 20.
Captain Laura Rosenkranz, who also resigned, told that the board’s decision was unacceptably harsh. Laura was previously married to John Rosenkranz, the chief of the Illinois fire department. In a video that has now gone viral, an Illinois volunteer fireman could be seen hurling his helmet, jacket, and other heavy equipment onto a table. “Here’s my gear,” the firefighter informed the board of trustees of the Prairie Du Pont Fire Protection District.
Jerame Simmons, the fire department’s assistant chief, was appointed as the chief of the department. In a statement released by the board of trustees, it stated that “a change in the Fire Department’s leadership is required,” and that it had complete confidence in Simmons‘ ability to oversee the department.
According to reports, Simmons pleaded guilty to arson more than 20 years ago when he was 18 years old.
Simmons was charged with starting two fires. The first was in a vacant home, and the second was at Dupo High School in 1999. Because his father was mayor of East Carondelet in Saint Clair County at the time of the arson, it is possible Simmons got off easy.
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has since pardoned him.
Former fire captain Laura Rosencranz, the wife of the now-former chief, said in a statement:
“It’s a pardon. Still, the town remembers the school being set on fire. The town remembers the house set on fire where we had firefighters fall and be injured.”
In a statement, former chief Rosencranz said:
“I think it’s appalling and disgusting. We’re not going to have the adequate protection here. It’s not going to be as it should be here. I’m kind of blindsided but not. I knew it was coming, but I didn’t expect it to be a couple of days before Christmas.”
Seven years ago, Rosencraz said his family lost their home to a fire on Christmas.
He said that the board did not give him a reason for his dismissal. Rosencranz and his supporters plan to take the matter before the St. Clair County Board.
The chiefs of two neighboring departments, Cahokia and Dup, said they supported the change and have full confidence in Jerame Simmons as acting chief.
They claim that he has been a devoted volunteer firefighter at area departments for years. Both also stated that their departments would help fill any gaps in coverage left by the resignations.
Watch the video report below for more details: