Illinois Fire Chief Resigns After Paging Firefighters to Fake Fire

Blackhawk Fire Protection District (IL) Chief Gary Chapman has resigned from the fire department after he allegedly summoned volunteers to a fake fire, reports Quad-Cities Online.

Assistant chief Jerry Mader will serve as interim chief until the fire protection board meets next month and determines a plan to select a permanent replacement.

Milan Police Chief Shawn Johnson said that around 6:15 p.m. on May 6, a 911 dispatcher was contacted by Mr. Chapman, who said he had paged volunteer firefighters to a fake brush fire.

According to Chief Johnson, Chapman told the dispatcher the fire was made-up to make firefighters available to help clean a building in the area that had once served as a haunted house run by the fire department.

“He was lying to have the men show up to do some work… He didn’t believe anyone would come down to help” otherwise,” Chief Johnson said.

He added that for the police dispatcher, it was “a little bit of shock that that would happen,” as she received two follow-up calls from a fireman and a local ambulance agency wanting more information.

A partial audio recording of the dispatcher’s phone line that night indicates that when a medic from the AMT ambulance service called asking about the brush fire, the dispatcher said, “no, that’s a practice. The fire department felt that was the only way he could get his crew in and he told me to disregard and he was going to be counting it out.”

The dispatcher is further heard assuring the medic, “there is absolutely no fire.”

Chief Johnson said, the next day, he was instructed by the three-member board for the fire protection district to launch an investigation into the false alarm.

On Wednesday, Chief Johnson called it a “poor decision” by Chapman and said, “We definitely kind of asked about if this was a general practice — has this happened before?” He said the department now believes this was an isolated occurrence.

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