DU QUOIN, Ill. (AP) — One year after a massive fire on Pinckneyville's town square claimed the life of his son Corey, Du Quoin Fire Chief Bob Shaw has dedicated himself to making sure local firefighters receive adequate training.
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Witnesses said Corey Shaw, 22, was near the east wall of the Pinckneyville Antique Mall when it collapsed. He was airlifted to St. Louis, where he died from his injuries.
The antique store and the Kunz Opera House were destroyed in the fire.
Du Quoin Police and Fire Commissioner Josh Downs said Bob Shaw is on an "absolute mission" to make sure firefighters receive the training they need."
"I couldn't be prouder of him for doing that and how he's handled all of this," Downs said. "It's magnificent what he's done, and I know the whole city is proud of him and I hope everyone in the region is, too."
Shaw said he is trying to work with the Illinois Fire Service Institute to bring more training opportunities to Southern Illinois.
Many of the paid fire departments in the region have the funds to send their firefighters to training, Shaw said, but in a rural area like Southern Illinois, where there are many volunteer departments, the money for training is often hard to come by.
"A lot of the stuff I'm doing right now, you have to travel to St. Louis, Champaign or Chicago," Shaw said.
"As of late, we've been working with Rend Lake College and we think we can get the training for next to nothing, basically for the price of books."
Shaw said he thought there were a lot of volunteer firefighters who would like to have the training, but can't afford the classes or to take off work for a week.
"We're going to try to have (classes) on weekends or in the evenings, so anyone wanting to get the training should be able to get it," Shaw said. "It should be within their means and it should be given in a time frame that they can fit around their work schedule, because those volunteers are terrifically busy with families and jobs and trying to help the fire service."
Shaw said in his research, when training is mandated, 68 percent of firefighters reach advanced levels of training. He said when there is no mandate, 74 percent have no certification whatsoever.
"We have guys who have never been formally trained fighting fires and that can be very dangerous," Shaw said.
Shaw said many other local fire chiefs are involved in the effort to make training more widely available. A training day is currently scheduled for Saturday at Rend Lake College. Shaw has been putting together a class for the event called "Reading Buildings," which focuses on identifying weak points of structures.
Shaw said his passion for helping firefighters find training opportunities was the least he could do for the memory of his son.
"You've got to realize that every firefighter is somebody's Corey Shaw," Shaw said. "They all are, and I don't want his death to be in vain."
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