PEORIA - A New Years Eve fire that claimed the life of a West Peoria woman is leaving questions of a volunteer fire department's protocol.
A Monday night house fire destroyed a home and took the life of 95-year-old Betty Kemp. There were calls for help to other volunteer departments, but never to the Peoria fire department, one that has firefighters ready to go 24/7.
Peoria Chief Kent Tomblin said, "If they would have called that night and said I need an engine company and a truck company, they would have got an engine company and a truck company and a battalion chief to go over there and assist them in that fire."
West Peoria's Fire Chief Terry Schadt said his crews arrived on the scene before calling in mutual aid from Limestone, Bartonville and Peoria Heights. He said they didn't reach the level where it was necessary to call in Peoria.
Schadt said, "In the box alarm that we have, we have five levels. Actually, Peoria was on the third alarm. This house fire unfortunately we had to call for a second alarm, so actually Peoria would have been next in line to respond."
Peoria has a firehouse just a mile away from the 2000 block of West Heading Avenue where firefighters spent two hours actively fighting the fire.
Chief Tomblin said six men could have been there in under five minutes.
West Peoria's Chief Schadt said he stands by his department's protocol. "It doesn't matter who's called. We all have an agreement. We've all signed and we've all signed off certain agreements within the levels on the box alarm system and that's where we stand."
Tomblin said, "Our duties are the same. It's to save lives and put the fires out. So we all do the same duties. It's about who's going to get there the earliest possible that we can."
Chief Schadt said the alarm system can be changed if his department sees a need but that has not yet been discussed.