2 Ill. cities will appeal state report on fatal fire

A joint statement from Sterling and Rock Falls says the report contains errors plus suggestions for improvement that the Sterling Fire Department has begun


Troy E. Taylor
Daily Gazette, Sterling, Ill.

STERLING, Ill. — The cities of Sterling and Rock Falls are committed to improved fire service but will appeal what they say are errors in a report by the Illinois Department of Labor of its investigation into the Dec. 4 fire that claimed the life of Sterling firefighter Garrett Ramos.

Sterling City Manager Scott Shumard and Rock Falls City Administrator issued a joint statement Saturday afternoon responding to the Labor report that was sent to them on April 5.

Lt. Garrett Ramos, 38, died Dec. 4 after a burning home's floor collapsed and he fell into the basement. Ramos is survived by his wife, Brittney Ramos, and their children.
Lt. Garrett Ramos, 38, died Dec. 4 after a burning home's floor collapsed and he fell into the basement. Ramos is survived by his wife, Brittney Ramos, and their children. (Photo/IAFF)

The joint statement said the report contains suggestions for improvement within the Sterling Fire Department that have already been initiated. These include reviews of standard operating guidelines and policies and provisions for additional training.

The points in the report the municipalities dispute are:

1. The misidentification of the Accountability Officer on the scene.

2. The report's accompanying "Hazard Alert Letter," which they say refers to a separate and unrelated inspection from earlier in 2021.

Rock Falls and Sterling have scheduled a conference on Tuesday to address those things.

The statement says that city officials cooperated with the Office of the State Fire Marshal, the state Department of Labor and its Illinois Occupational Safety and Health Administration division.

"The City remains committed to undertaking a full evaluation out of respect and honor for the sacrifice of Lt. Ramos and a desire for continuous improvement," the statement said.

The cities said that before receiving the report's recommendations, the two departments had reached out to the University of Illinois Fire Service Institute to update and schedule training for emergency scene accountability, rapid intervention teams, two-in and two-out policies and mayday procedures.

The OSHA inspection report said it identified training deficiencies with the two departments, specifically how mayday calls are received, identified and located.

The joint statement said portable radios have been reprogrammed to avoid accidental changes between primary and tactical channels.

Sterling and Rock Falls have requested that Whiteside County adopt the report's recommendations to make improvements to dispatch radio coverage. The report says that gaps were identified and do not comply with National Fire Protection Association standards.

The Labor report also issued citations to the cities of Sterling and Rock Falls.

According to copies of the Labor report obtained by the Gazette and Telegraph, the two citations against the Sterling Fire Department carried a fine of $24,000 and required five action items for correction. The citation against the Rock Falls Fire Department carried a $12,000 fine.

"We are reviewing those citations to determine the best course of action to serve our obligations to the members of the fire departments and their families," the joint statement read.

The joint statement said the cities would not make additional comments on the merit of the citations issued "as we work through the appropriate legal process."

The joint statement opened by saying that Ramos was held in the highest regard by everyone in the city government and the fire service.

"We are humbled and grateful in the way the entire community came together to honor his memory and pray for his family," the joint statement said.

The line of duty death was the first in the Sterling department's 150-year history.

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(c)2022 the Daily Gazette (Sterling, Ill.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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