The Oaks Volunteer Fire Department chief said his outfit and the Grand River Dam Authority have a great relationship when working together on the Illinois River.
Vince Osburn, who has been with the department for close to the 30 years, said the two agencies got more involved with one another due to an incident on the river.
“That kind of got us involved a little more and they knew we were trained [on the water],” said Osburn. “The Illinois River Fire & Rescue used to cover almost all of it before we got our boat on the river.”
Osburn said IRFR used to cover the entire area between State Highway 51 and Flint Creek.
“About two years ago, they gave us Hanging Rock north so they take care of Hanging Rock south, and most of the floaters are down in that area anyway. They stay busy so we put our team together and started doing a lot more rescues.”
The Oaks Fire Department was coordinated in 1973 and currently has 23 volunteers. Osburn said they average anywhere from 250-300 calls a year.
“Those are counting your boat rescues, wrecks, and medical calls. They didn’t page us out as much on medical calls last year because of the [pandemic]. Cherokee Nation only sent us out to what we call delta calls, cardiac arrests, or wrecks,” he said.
The department is equipped with three pumper trucks, two rescue trucks, four brush trucks, one tanker truck, one commander vehicle, and one rescue boat.
“Usually I put a guy that knows how to drive the boat because they have a lot of experience and we at least put a first responder that has had the swift water training on the boat,” said Osburn. “You have to know what you’re doing and we’ve already had four rescues during the Memorial Day week.”
Osburn said the three most common calls they are paged out to are medical assists, grass fires, and vehicle crashes.
“In our area, we don’t have but maybe 10-12 calls to structure fires where it’s mutual aid. For insurance purposes, they page three [departments] out on a house fire and that way we have the manpower and trucks there,” said Osburn.
OFD hosts a variety of events and fundraisers throughout the year.
“We didn’t do anything last year because of the [pandemic] but we’ve already done our open house for our membership drive this year. We do our Fourth of July event and we’ve been doing that for the last six or seven years,” said Osburn.
Other events and fundraisers include a car show and a fire presentation held at the high school.
“We appreciate all of the help and we get operation funds from Cherokee Nation," Osborn said. "They house their ambulance at the station which is very beneficial to our community. The firefighters who do their volunteers and give their time out there, I appreciate it."