Ernie Russell was 74. He was a Navy Veteran, and served at every level in the Peoria Fire Department, including chief. Russell was instrumental in the creation of the Fire Training Academy on Galena Road and also the Peoria Fire Department’s Central House at Bryant and Monroe. He was appointed Illinois State Fire Marshal in 2001. In that role, he helped in the 9-11 recovery support services in New York following the terror attack. Russell spoke with Peoria Public Radio in 2011 about what may be the biggest fire safety lesson learned after 9-11.
Russell: “When those buildings went down, we not only lost those firefighters and police officers, in the structure, but we also lost the entire command structure. So New York had to regroup and reset command and this all takes time in putting this together: the personnel and where do we put them, the communication equipment, all of that type of thing. The biggest problem we still have today is communicating with our people, especially in structures like that.”
After retirement, Russell served as a resource management consultant and as the interim chief for the Canton and the Village of Oaklawn. Russell is survived by his wife Sara, four brothers and sisters, two daughters and numerous grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousin