Guest Editorial: Benton Fire Chief Shane Cockrum

BENTON, IL – As Fire Chief, almost on a daily basis I work on issues that affect our citizens. Many of these are not even in times of emergency. You will frequently see me posting about recycling, festivals, economic growth ideas and much more. I, like many of you, do this because I care about my community.

From time to time, issues will arise that impact each of you and are directly or indirectly tied to the department I run, the Benton Fire Department. I am a very transparent person so I do my best within reason to provide you the facts.

We all know one of the major downfalls of today’s society is the growth of fake news or misinformation that seems to run rampant. Although many see through these claims, it has become very easy to believe things we see and hear through social media.

One issue that I face daily is the fire hydrant situation. Since my taking of the helm in June of 2015, we have worked hard to bring fire protection up to levels never before seen in this community and I’m happy to say that in June of 2017, this city received the best fire protection rating in its nearly 100 year history

. I would be a fool to say that it was all me and came without enormous help of the men at the station, the water dept, the council or the mayor. But like anything, much improvement remains. It’s no secret that we have a dated water system, but I can tell you that something like 44% of America falls within this same categor .

Many of us are coming to the end of the useful life of our water systems as most were installed at the same time in our country. I have talked many times to the water superintendent’s of past and present and I can assure you they are working to alleviate the problems but I would please ask you to bare with them.

As far as fire protection, we will continue to maintenance all hydrants(many which are still very good) and fix all problems we can and make sure the ones we can’t get to the appropriate people. I do want to reassure you that your family is safe through this process. Past administration of the FD were proactive enough to plan ahead and see this coming.

We currently have fire apparatus and mutual aid plans that are put into play at every working fire to bring over 10,000 gallons of water to the scene within 10 minutes. That is as much or more water on wheels than you will find on any first alarm, in almost any municipal department that I’d venture to say, is within 100 miles. I will continue to lobby hard to get the necessary replacement of hydrants and water infrastructure but while this is an ongoing process, please know that you and your family are protected.

Don’t let naysayers or anyone not “currently” in the know tell you otherwise. If anyone has any concerns, feel free to contact me at my office or stop by and discuss, my door is always open. I apologize for the long post, appreciate your time and ask that you continue to be safe .

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