The naming of a convicted arsonist as the acting fire chief of an Illinois fire department has led to mass resignation of fire fighters.
The board at the Prairie Du Pont Volunteer Fire Department, in St. Clair County, removed Chief John Rosencranz and replaced him with Assistant Chief Jerame Simmons, who has previously been convicted of arson in 1998 aged 18 and was granted pardon by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker after probation.
In a statement shared on the fire department’s Facebook page, the board of trustees said it “did not act lightly” in making the decision.
“The board has full confidence in Acting Chief Simmons’ ability to lead the department during the transition period until a new chief is appointed by the board. The board hopes members of the fire department will work with the acting chief to provide quality emergency services to the residents and property owners of the district during the transition period.”
However, the board’s statement did little to ease the concerns of numerous firefighters who quit on the spot after learning of Simmons’ appointment.
In a letter addressed to the board of trustees, members of the Prairie Du Pont Fire Department said they had “no confidence” in Simmons or Wade Bivins to lead crews as he had “shown a lack of respect” towards firefighters.
“siting Jerame’s recent behaviour on high stakes calls, during training, and illegal activities such as OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] has shown a lack of respect for the department and the rank structure we adhere to.
Simmons pleaded guilty to arson 20 years ago after he was accused of setting fire to a vacant building, and also set another one at Dupo High School.