The search for a new fire chief in Peoria was short.
With the announcement Monday of the departure of Chief Chuck Lauss at the end of the month, assistant chief Ed Olehy has already been named to the top job beginning February 1st.
One of the issues Olehy will address is the growing number of lift assist calls, where firefighters are called out to help citizens who have fallen. “So there’s really a fine balance there of what’s a non-emergent call compared to what a lift assist at a care facility that already staffed. These are things we’re really going to look at either reduce them or find out some way to recoup some of the cost of those things.”
The new chief takes the helm after 29 years in the department. He’ll also face some familiar challenges, including the staffing of fire equipment.
During discussions for the current city budget, staff recommended the elimination of one of the city’s four fire trucks, the longer trucks with ladders. The city council approved other ways to trim the department’s budget, but Olehy knows he’ll face potential cuts in next year’s budget.
“We’re really concerned about it and we’re concerned with working with the budget we’ve been given by the council to keep them all open like we have this year. We just don’t have a lot of wiggle room from this point on. We’re still fighting over 500 fires a year in the city which is a high number.”
The department currently operates four fire trucks, 11 fire engines and two rescue units out of a dozen firehouses. Olehy will oversee a department with more than 200 commissioned employees.