Alderman John Arena (45th ward) may have been given the nickname "landslide" by Ald. Ed Burke (22nd), but on Thursday he may have earned himself a new nickname: hero.
Arena joined about a dozen other Chicago aldermen who participated in a day long firefighter training session at the Chicago Fire Academy Thursday, exchanging their office attire for full fire gear.
"I haven’t had this much equipment on since Vietnam," said Alderman James Balcer (11th). "It’s really hard work, and it’s dangerous work."
The training did not only increase the aldermen’s familiarity with fire safety and the training necessary to endure fire emergencies, but it also provided an opportunity for aldermen to reflect on budget decisions pertaining to the fire department staff.
"What’s more important, money or life?" said Ald. Carrie Austin (34th). "You have to put more on life than you do on 'Well, our budget can’t stand for it.'"
The Chicago aldermen climbed stairs, crawled on the floor and used heavy firefighter equipment for simulations of real life fire situations.
Tom Ryan, president of the Chicago Firefighter's Union Local 2, hopes that by doing these exercises, aldermen will understand why the Chicago Fire Department needs to maintain the staff levels they currently have.