City fire department will stop fighting county fires

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Reporter - Kendall Downing

HARRISBURG, Ill. - Not fighting fires. Monday the city fire department in Harrisburg, Illinois will stop responding to calls outside city limits. City commissioners voted to approve this plan last December and signed off on it again last week.

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Gregg called a special meeting Friday morning to discuss the 911 issue and the looming deadline. He said he's now not in favor of the plan and wants to find a solution with Saline County. The meeting wasn't official because there weren't enough council members there for a quorum.

Some homeowners are now in limbo, wondering where help will come from when it's needed.

Cindy Morris is getting rid of weeds, but spraying is only a distraction.

"I try to put it out of my mind," she said.

She's worried about what department will help her in case of a fire. Her house isn't in the city limits, but the church next to her is.

"I'm two miles from the city department. I'm seven miles from the Carrier Mills department," said Morris.

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Gregg calls a rural fire coverage plan approved by the county board Thursday night a logistical nightmare.

Five other municipalities will pick up the slack throughout the county.

"I'm concerned about losing lives. I'm concerned about losing property," said Gregg.

He said there's got to be a better compromise, and the deadline's coming too soon. The city's been losing money fighting county fires.

City leaders are pushing Saline County to form a fire protection district to cover unincorporated areas. But county board member Roger Craig told Local 6 that's not in their authority.

Craig points to a state statute that says fifty voters in the proposed district must petition the circuit clerk to put the issue on the ballot.

"There's a standoff, a bit of a power struggle," said Morris.

Cindy Morris said she doesn't care about the politics. She hopes the help will come when it's needed.

"I figure I will get response from somewhere if I call 911," she said.

Harrisburg City Attorney Todd Bittle told Local 6 the city has the green light from the Illinois State Fire Marshal to move ahead with the restrictions.

City crews will offer mutual aid only within the boundaries of other Saline County municipalities.

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