St. Clair County, IL – Ten out of 13 members of the Prairie Du Pont Volunteer Fire Department quit at a fire district board meeting on Monday night after a convicted arsonist was appointed acting fire chief.
The Prairie Du Pont Volunteer Fire Protection District Board of Trustees met in East Carondelet on Dec. 20 and fired Prairie Du Pont Volunteer Fire Chief John Rosencranz, KTVI reported.
The board gave no reason for the termination as they replaced Chief Rosencranz with Prairie Du Pont Volunteer Fire Assistant Chief Jerame Simmons, who was sitting at the same table.
In a statement released after the meeting on the fire department’s official Facebook page, the board of trustees simply said it had become apparent “over the last several months that a change in the Fire Department’s leadership is needed.”
But their choice to replace the popular Chief Rosencranz quickly became a huge problem.
Simmons is the son of Herb Simmons, the long-time director of the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency, KTVI reported.
But 20 years ago, he pleaded guilty to arson after setting fire to a vacant home and setting a small fire in Dupo High School.
Simmons was 18 when he set the fires, and he told KTVI that Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has since pardoned him.
But that’s not good enough for the firefighters on the department that he will be heading and some members of the community he will serve.
“It’s a pardon. Still, the town remembers the school being set on fire,” former Prairie Du Pont Volunteer Fire Captain Laura Rosencranz, who is also the wife of the now-former chief, told KTVI.
“The town remembers the house set on fire where we had firefighters fall and be injured,” Laura Rosencranz added.
A soon as the board appointed Simmons to acting chief, firefighters rose from their seats and began turning in gear right in the meeting room along with their resignations, FOX News reported.
By the time the meeting had ended, 10 of the 13 firefighters on the department had submitted their resignations.
“I think it’s appalling and disgusting,” the now-former Chief Rosencranz said. “We’re not going to have the adequate protection here. It’s not going to be as it should be here. I’m kind of blindsided but not. I knew it was coming, but I didn’t expect it to be a couple of days before Christmas.”
Fire chiefs from neighboring departments have said they will step in to fill the gap left by the mass resignation if needed, FOX News reported.