FIRE IN THE LAKE
What is going on in the fire departments around Geneva Lake? A former firefighter has come forth to attempt to explain what happened to him when he was caught up in a vortex of the perfect storm. Dan Pajeau is the fire fighter’s name. He was once a part of the Fontana Fire Department. What happened in Fontana is interesting, but the truth of the matter may run a bit deeper, if what’s alleged to have happened in the Fontana Department is happening elsewhere. What Mr. Pajeau alleges is quite fascinating.
Mr. Pajeau indicated last week that the Fontana Fire Department carries forty firefighters on its rolls. The firefighters are “volunteers” in that they do not receive salaries, instead being paid only for the calls they go on. According to Mr. Pajaeu, many more firefighters go on calls than are needed so that they can be paid for the call. The public has no idea whatsoever how many, or which firefighters, are dispatched for any call. The cost of these calls are generally passed on to the people who need the help, with local tax funding used to pay for equipment and facilities. Many times, as in the case of auto accidents, heart attacks or fires, the firefighters are paid by the insurance companies without the people who got the benefit even knowing. According to Mr. Pajeau, most of the firefighters in the Fontana Fire Department, as well as those from places all around the lake, actually work full time in Illinois or other places. That brings up the question of how volunteers who work full time tens of miles away are ever going to be on hand to respond to a call in or around Fontana. According to Mr. Pajeau, they aren’t around. They are merely carried on the books to give the appearance that fire departments are much larger, and therefore more capable than they really are.
John Peter, for example, the new Interim Fire Chief in Lake Geneva is a full time firefighter in Illinois. How can he be the fire chief in Lake Geneva when most of his working time is spent quite a few miles away in another state? Whatever merit Mr. Pajeau’s allegations have, it is a damned good and important question. Even if the Lake Geneva Police and Fire Commission is satisfied that Peters is okay to work most of his time elsewhere and still be the fire chief in Lake Geneva, how does the citizenry feel? It’s the citizen’s who need the fire department, not the commission (except for those who are residents in Lake Geneva, of course). Why would a very small berg like Fontana need forty firefighters? One of the highest ranking firefighters is Mr. Shodeen’s wife. Shodeen is the builder constructing all those high density condos in downtown Fontana. In fact, his latest development looks right down upon the fire department. How strange is that, even in a small town?
Incidentally, according to Mr. Pajeau, Fontana had a big benefit drive to pay for improvements on its lake rescue craft. When it came time to fix the boat the money went missing. It was never found. The money had to be borrowed from the City of Fontana in one of those special secret sessions. Mr. Pajeau was fired for cause from his position on the Fontana Fire Department. Amazingly, his termination letter reads “for failure to properly disrespect his fellow officers.” Was that Fontana humor, or was that accurate? When trouble happens around the lake those in trouble want as many emergency personnel to arrive on scene as possible. The real question then becomes just how much should be paid, if hundreds of personnel are listed as showing up to watch the show, as opposed to the personnel that actually do the job?