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Harrisburg to take out-of-town fire calls again

By Travis DeNeal
updated: 7/25/2019 5:11 PM

HARRISBURG -- Harrisburg has agreed to start responding to out-of-city fire calls again.

The city quit responding to out of the city calls in 2013, claiming too many bills they sent to those residents went unpaid. However, those complaints turned out to be largely unfounded, Harrisburg Fire Chief John Gunning now says.

Public Health and Safety Commissioner Raymond Gunning proposed restarting the policy of taking some out of city calls.

Previously, the city charged $2,000 to a property owner for an out-of-city fire call. Property insurance policies often have riders that cover the costs of responding fire departments.

At the time, though, the city said it was not receiving timely reimbursements.

At the council meeting Thursday, Chief Gunning said the information presented in 2013 was not accurate; that in fact, the city was receiving between 94 to 97 percent of the money it billed for out-of-town fire calls, often from insurance companies.

Also, he said, some property owners had made payment arrangements with the city clerk's office to pay for the fire calls in installments, and those payments apparently had not been taken into consideration when the city voted to restrict fire calls to city limits.

In choosing to reinstate out of city calls for the Harrisburg Fire Department, the city council noted there will be slight changes to the areas where Harrisburg will be the primary responding department.

Southeastern Illinois College will continue to have Eldorado Fire Department serve as primary responding department, Chief Gunning said.

"They're three miles away, so they are able to get there quicker," he said.

In addition, Saline County locations on the other side of Eagle Mountain, specifically the very southeastern portion of the county, will continue to be served by the Equality Fire Department.

Once the new measure is approved by Saline County E-911 and the county board, the Harrisburg Fire Department will be the primary responder north of Harrisburg up to the area around Little Chapel Church and south to the Saline/Pope County line, including part of the Rudement community.

Chief Gunning said the county will have to approve the measure before it is fully adopted. Saline County E-911 Director Tracy Felty also confirmed that the changes must be made and approved at the county level before the measure can take effect.

Residents will continue to dial 911 in emergencies, as usual.