Firefighters in a small town in Illinois took part in a mass resignation as 10 of the 13 quit immediately after a new Fire Chief was named.
After Jerame Simmons Sr. was elevated from Assistant Chief to Fire Chief, the ten firefighters quit. Simmons was a convicted felon after he plead guilty to arson about 20 years ago.
Video footage from the town board meeting shows one of the firefighters throwing down his helmet and jacket before walking out.
"These people feel like they have absolutely no other option," said the former fire chief John Rosencranz speaking about the firefighters.
Members of the Prairie Du Pont Fire Department said they had "no confidence" in Simmons to lead crews. The letter they wrote also contained some serious accusations against him.
"It will come to you as no surprise to you the association feels that Jerame Simmons Sr's appointment has promoted an undermining work environment by continually going against the fire chief and questioning his decisions. The past few months have been disheartening. Jerame's recent behavior on high stakes calls, during training, and illegal activities such as OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] has shown a lack of respect for the department and the rank structure we adhere to. The Prairie Du Pont Fire's Association feels his actions have contributed to moral and internal conflict among the department members."
Rosencranz says the board held an "unusual" meeting and then Simmons was named the new assistant chief in August. Simmons also happens to be the son of longtime director of the county's Emergency Management Agency.
Rosencranz added that he was never made aware of the decision beforehand and says the safety of his community is now in danger after all of the firefighters quit.
"I've never seen anything like this," said a retired firefighter at the board meeting.
Simmons was charged in 1999 after he allegedly set fire to a vacant home and setting a smaller fire at Dupo High School. Simmons father at the time was mayor and after pleading guilty, was sentenced to just four years of probation before being pardoned.
"It's a pardon. Still, the town remembers the school being set on fire. The town remembers the house set on fire where we had firefighters fall and be iinjured," said Laura Rosencranz, former fire captain and wife of John Rosencranz.
John added, "I think it's appalling and disgusting. We're not going to have the adequate protection here. It's not going to be as it should 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."
Rosencranz, who served as fire chief for around 3 years and served the department for 19 years, says he hasn't been given a reason for his dismissal.
Two neighboring fire departments pledged their support of Simmons and offered to help fill the gaps left by the firefighters who quit.