Ottawa Fire to receive $731,849 federal grant to hire more staff

Grant received in the wake of St. Margaret’s closures in Peru, Spring Valley

Ottawa police and fire station

The Ottawa Fire Department will receive $731,849 from a federal grant to hire more staff in response to the closure of Spring Valley and Peru hospitals.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Program provides funds to help fire departments hire additional firefighters, rehire or retain firefighters facing budget-related layoffs and recruit and retain volunteer firefighters, U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, said in a news release.

“As a member of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, bringing home federal resources to keep our community safe and healthy is a top priority,” Underwood said in the release. “In the wake of the closures of St. Margaret’s hospitals in Peru and Spring Valley, this grant will help relieve the strain on local emergency services and first responders. I am proud to have supported the fire department’s application and am delighted to see this funding benefit Ottawa and the surrounding areas.”

The closure of Peru’s hospital Jan. 28 and Spring Valley’s hospital June 16 left a void in western La Salle and eastern Bureau counties, leaving communities such as La Salle, Peru, Oglesby and Spring Valley without an immediate emergency room. Several more patients have been taken to Ottawa’s OSF St. Elizabeth Medical Center in the wake of the closures. OSF has said the Peru hospital is expected to open with emergency care and other inpatient services following completion of the sale of assets from St. Margaret’s Health. Michael Henderson, with OSF HealthCare, said the completion of the Peru hospital sale is tentatively slated for the end of August, but factors OSF HealthCare officials can’t control could put the purchase on hold.

In addition to Underwood’s support for the Ottawa fire department’s SAFER application, she is working to secure $1 million in Community Project Funding to build a brand-new ambulance and fire station in Ottawa, she said. This will help improve emergency response times. The Ottawa City Council authorized in June the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association to analyze the city and find the best possible location for a third fire station.

The Fiscal Year 2022 SAFER Program, administered by the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency in cooperation with the U.S. Fire Administration, awards grants to eligible fire departments and volunteer firefighter organizations. Grants help local fire departments with staffing and deployment so that they can effectively and safely respond to emergencies.

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood marches in the annual PrairieFest parade in downtown Oswego. June 18, 2023.