Video: Ill. FFs quit after once-convicted arsonist named fire chief
Jerame Simmons, who has since been pardoned for the crime, was appointed acting fire chief of the Prairie Du Pont Volunteer Fire Department
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By FireRescue1 staff
EAST CARONDELET, Ill. — A man once convicted of arson is now acting fire chief of the Prairie Du Pont Volunteer Fire Department in East Carondelet, Illinois.
Assistant Chief Jerame Simmons replaced Fire Chief John Rosenkranz during a fire district board meeting on Monday, reported Fox2Now. It is not clear why the board chose to replace Rosenkranz.
Ten of the fire department’s 13 firefighters quit on the spot, with one taking off his fire department shirt and throwing it at the board members and later putting his gear on the table in front of them in protest.
Simmons reportedly pleaded guilty to arson more than 20 years ago when he was 18. He was accused of setting two fires – one to a vacant home and the other at DuPont High School.
Simmons served probation, and Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has since pardoned him for the crime. Simmons later worked for other fire departments.
Simmons is the son of Herb Simmons, the long-time director of the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency.
Former Chief John Rosenkranz called the move “appalling and disgusting,” adding, “We’re not going to have the adequate protection here. It’s not going to be as it should be here.”
Former Fire Captain Laura Rosenkranz, wife of the former chief Rosenkranz, added: “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.”
The firefighters who resigned reportedly also made a motion of no confidence on Monday and called upon St. Clair County to intervene with the Fire Board of Trustees.
Chiefs from two neighboring departments voiced their support for Simmons, saying he has been a devoted volunteer firefighter for years. They also offered to help with any staffing issues created by the resignations.
Read Chief Bashoor's take
‘Lunacy’: A once-convicted arsonist as fire chief – and a firefighter walkout
It’s the community that suffers when board members and first responders alike don’t prioritize the public trust