‘The Town Remembers’: Firefighters Quit After Convicted Arsonist Named Chief

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Ten firefighters resigned from an Illinois fire department after a man once convicted of arson was named the department’s acting chief, The Washington Post reported.

Jerame Simmons, the fire department’s assistant chief, replaced John Rosenkranz as chief on Monday without explanation, the Post reported. The department’s board of trustees reportedly said “a change in the Fire Department’s leadership is needed” in a statement after a meeting Monday.

Simmons pleaded guilty to arson in 1999 after setting the ceiling tiles in his high school’s basement and an abandoned house on fire, the Post reported. He was 18-years old at that time, and he was sentenced to four years of probation, though Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker later pardoned him, Fox 2 reported.

Eight of the volunteers who quit sent a letter to the board of trustees stating they were leaving their positions “with regret and sorrow.” There were thirteen total firefighters at the department, the Post reported.

“The town remembers the school being set on fire, the town remembers the house set on fire [where] we had firefighters fall and be injured,” Laura Rosenkranz, the department’s captain and the former chief’s wife, told the Post. She also submitted her resignation.

The mayor of the town Simmons grew up in was his father at the time of his sentencing, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in 1999, according to The Post. The former mayor is now the director of the county emergency management agency.

“These people feel like they have absolutely no other option,” the former chief told the Post. He said the board had held an “unusual” meeting in August where Simmons was named the department’s acting assistant chief.

“It’s not important that I’m the chief or not the chief,” he said. “It’s about … making sure everything’s taken care of.”

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