Firefighters, taxpayers in pain

Opinion: Editorials

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We don't know what's wrong with the eight out of 59 Oak Park firefighters who have spent time on injured leave this year. Privacy laws keep such medical details private. We do know that seven of the injured workers did the damage while off-duty. And we know that, so far this year the village is $200,000 over its fire department overtime budget as a result.

In a town that claims it fired a deputy police chief because summer storms ran up too much overtime in public works, we'd be worried if we worked at village hall and heard about a firefighter having a slip and fall at the Jewel.

Perhaps this is the inevitable consequence of the many layoffs the fire department has already absorbed – down to 59 from 70 less than two years ago. Cut close enough to the bone and there is no room to maneuver when an injury occurs. To us it again raises the upside of consolidation among multiple fire departments. More resources allow more flexibility. We also wonder about the comment from Village Manager Tom Barwin that the village will put a new emphasis on fitness and wellness in the fire department. But all we can do is wonder since we don't know if the injured firefighters tripped on tricycles or pulled muscles in the garden.

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