Kendall County area firefighters face decision: COVID-19 vaccine or test?

Oswego, Bristol-Kendall, Aurora Township fire districts report compliance with state mandate

In the aftermath of the Bristol-Kendall Fire Protection District Board’s decision to dismiss a firefighter-paramedic, fire district officials confirmed that he was the lone member of the department to refuse a COVID-19 vaccination or submit to weekly testing for the virus.

Fire Chief Jim Bateman said that the rest of the district’s staff of 24 full-time employees, 30 part-time individuals and nine contract paramedics are all in compliance with Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive order.

Bateman was even more specific, saying that 40% of the department’s firefighters and paramedics have been vaccinated, while all the others are undergoing the weekly testing routine. The fire district serves a large area in north central Kendall County, including the city of Yorkville and unincorporated Bristol.

That begs the question of compliance with the governor’s order in other fire protection districts that serve residents in and around Kendall County.

“Everybody is in compliance here,” Oswego Fire Protection District Chief John Cornish said.

The district covers a vast portion of northeast Kendall County and a portion of Wheatland Township in Will County, with two stations in Oswego, one in Montgomery and one in Plainfield.

There are 75 full-time employees of the district, Cornish said, and everyone is either vaccinated for COVID-19 or going through the testing regimen.

Cornish declined to break down the proportion of those who are vaccinated compared to those who are testing.

In the Aurora Township Fire Protection District, which includes unincorporated areas of southeast Kane County including a portion of the village of Montgomery, every member of the department now on active duty is vaccinated, Chief Robert Watermann said.

One member of the department who declined the vaccine or testing was able to finesse the issue by electing to take a leave of absence, Watermann said.

All other members of the district’s 28-member department have been vaccinated, the chief said.

For a time, one member of the department was a holdout to getting the vaccine.

“He got tired of the weekly testing” and finally decided to get vaccinated, Watermann said.

Calls seeking comment from the Little Rock-Fox Fire Protection District, serving northwest Kendall County including Plano, and the Montgomery and Countryside Fire Protection District, serving a portion of the village of Montgomery in Kane County, were not returned as of publication.