It's only right that a fire department evolves with its growing community.
The is no exception, Fire Chief Ken Dunn said Tuesday. It started in 1901 solely as a volunteer organization.
But today, crews respond to about 2,000 calls each year. A total of 104 part-time firefighters make up the department's staff, with about 15 more expected to sign on soon.
Those 15 are filling positions of staff members who have stepped down for various reasons during the past year or so, Dunn said. But they must receive the proper training before becoming official assets to the department—sometimes graduating from a six-month fire academy and other times taking a few brush-up courses and getting up-to-date physical exams.
"The part-time program was set up so we'd always have people available to respond more quickly than if they were coming from home," he said, adding that the shift structure was put in place in 2000.
Personnel, training, operations and maintenance divisions make up the modern-day department.
Dunn, Senior Fire Inspector Dan Riordan and two secretaries are the only full-time employees, officials said. The remaining part-timers have a monthly obligation to work at least 36 hours.
That hourly quota will remain the same after pending staffing changes at the village's four stations. Right now, there is a four-person crew at station 4, a three person crew at station 3 and a four person crew at station 4. Station 2 is not regularly manned, Dunn said.
But the village awarded the department about $160,000 in November 2010. That's enough to fill one position every day for about a year, Dunn said. It will allow officials to move firefighters around to create three-person crews—an officer, engineer and a firefighter—at each station, including station 2.
"The village has always been very good about getting us the money we need to staff our crews," Dunn said. "Eventually, we'd like to have four at each station."
Some bills are paid for through the department's nonprofit organization, the Tinley Park Fire Department Association— a group that helps defray the cost of equipment. Annual fundraisers help generate that money, said Riordan, who leads a lot of community outreach efforts.
He promotes fire safety and prevention from a grassroots level, like visiting schoolchildren and holding awareness classes for residents.
"We believe in fire prevention," Riordan said. "It truly does make a difference."
He's also responsible for inspecting every commercial and residential unit in Tinley, totaling about 3,000 checks each year and accounting for about 32 million square feet.
"A fire department that doesn't educate and inspect for fire prevention … that's a huge mistake for a community," Dunn said. "We do believe that our active fire prevention bureau does save both lives and extreme costs from a fire."