Chicago Firefighters Create Safe Routes to Schools

Safe Passage routes to be covered by companies as students go to different schools
TINA SFONDELES, Chicago Sun-Times Published Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Chicago firefighters will have a "strong physical presence" on each of Chicago Public Schools' new Safe Passage routes for the first three weeks of school, according to a memo sent to firefighters.

With dozens of public schools slated for closing this fall, CPS and Chicago Police have been creating safe routes for kids traveling to different schools next school year. CPS and Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office asked the fire department to be part of that, a fire official said.

"During specific hours of the day, all companies will be on the routes and establish a visible presence to the children traveling to and from schools," Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago wrote in the May 3 memo.

Tom Ryan, president of the Chicago Fire Fighters Union Local 2, which represents 4,642 active firefighters and paramedics, said in a statement to members that he is concerned about firefighters' safety on the routes.

"We do whatever is necessary to protect the citizens of Chicago every day," Ryan said. "However, should a violent or armed confrontation erupt while on this special duty, the concern is that we are not equipped or trained to deal with this type of situation."

The Fraternal Order of Police echoed the concern and said using firefighters along the routes shows a lack of police manpower in the city.

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