Convicted Arsonist Becomes County Fire Chief in Illinois

When it comes to choosing a fire chief, there are probably a few prerequisites that a city or county should look for. He or she should have some experience as a firefighter, for one. They should have good leadership qualities. Oh, and they probably shouldn’t have a criminal history of setting fires.

If you think that goes without saying, boy have we got a story for you.

Ten of the Prairie Du Pont [Illinois] Volunteer Fire Department’s 13 firefighters resigned in protest Monday after their chief was removed and a convicted arsonist was named acting chief.
Fire district board members told KTVI that they have “good reasons” for dismissing Chief John Rosencranz and replacing him with Assistant Chief Jerame Simmons, but emotions ran high within the close-knit community that remembers all too well the acting chief’s troubled past. — WFTV

To be fair, the new acting chief committed his crimes more than 20 years ago. Simmons was 18 when he pleaded guilty to setting fires at a vacant home and at a local high school. He served probation and was then pardoned by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

These weren’t victimless crimes. Firefighters were injured while battling the blaze Simmons set at the high school. According to local station KTVI, his father was the director of the County Emergency Management in St. Clair, Illinois at the time.

The county’s former fire chief called Simmons’ appointment “appalling and disgusting.” The 13 firefighters are refusing to come back as long as Simmons remains on the job. As far as they’re concerned, the fox is guarding the hen house. For the town’s sake, let’s hope this fox is truly reformed.