ST. CLAIR COUNTY, Ill. — Several firefighters quit in protest after a man once convicted of arson was named the acting fire chief of the Prairie Du Pont Volunteer Fire Department in St. Clair County, Illinois.
Ten of the department’s 13 firefighters quit Monday when the board removed Chief John Rosecranz from his post and replaced him with Assistant Chief Jerame Simmons.
“It’s inexcusable what this district has done today to these two people and to everybody that’s sitting here that’s apart of this fire department,” said a former Prairie Du Pont firefighter.
Twenty years ago, Simmons pleaded guilty to arson when he was 18 years old. He was accused of setting fire to a vacant home and setting another, smaller fire, at Du Pont High School.
He served probation and has worked at other fire departments, including Du Pont, where he’s served as the assistant fire chief for the last six months.
Governor Pritzker has since pardoned him. The pardon is not holding weight for much of the department.
The group of resigned and fired staff made a motion of no confidence calling upon St. Clair County to intervene with the Fire Board of Trustees.
“I take pride in what I do, and I take pride in all my members,” said former Prairie Du Pont Fire Chief John Rosenkranz. “It makes it hard to take pride when you have that much bad publicity.”
Former Prairie Du Pont Fire Captain Laura Rosenkranz, the wife of the former chief, also voiced her concerns.
“This community deserves better,” said Laura Rosenkranz. “I’ve had tears, I’ve had emotions of all kinds today because it’s not what I wanted. My family lives here, but none of us feel safe working under this man.”
In a letter, the board of trustees said: “In taking this step, the board does not act lightly. While the board appreciates the prior service of Chief Rosenkranz, it has become apparent to the board over the last few months that a change in the fire department’s leadership is needed.”
Rosenkranz said he was given no reason behind his firing. Looking ahead many of the former firefighters see this move deepening an already low manpower issue and distrust in the Fire Board of Trustees.
“With us stepping back from it all and not being able to run underneath this new chief’s tenure because of it being unsafe, it’s not going to be adequate protection,” said John Rosenkranz.
The group of now resigned colleagues said they plan to petition the district if problems like the new chief and funding aren’t resolved.