UNION GROVE — Veteran Union Grove-Yorkville Fire Department member Tim Allen has been selected as the department’s new chief, the joint Union Grove and Yorkville Fire Commission announced Friday.
Allen, a 30-year veteran of the department, has been assistant chief for 17 years. He will step into the role of chief March 1, replacing current Chief Tom Czerniak, who has been chief for 17 years.
“I was kind of born into this,” Allen, 48, said. “My dad did this for 35 years, so I’ve been around the fire service since I was born.”
Allen, who lives in Yorkville, grew up visiting the fire station with his father, who was assistant chief for the department for seven years. As soon as Allen turned 18, he joined the department.
“I’ve been involved with this department for my entire adult life and my entire childhood,” Allen said.
Czerniak, who appointed Allen as assistant chief when he took over as chief in 2002, said he was pleased with the Fire Commission’s decision.
“Fire is in him,” Czerniak said. “He is one of the coolest, calmest people I have ever met. He does not get rankled. He’s got a wonderful head on his shoulders.”
Union Grove Village President Mike Aimone praised Allen for his longtime commitment to the department and community.
“Tim has worked long and hard and proved himself over the years as being a good leader for the future of the department,” Aimone said.
Sherry Gruhn, Yorkville village president, said Allen seemed anxious to get started in his new role, which she said is a good sign.
“He seemed excited about it,” Gruhn said, “He said he loved the department.”
As chief, Allen said he hopes to continue running the department in much the same way Czerniak has: being as down-to-earth as possible and fostering a feeling of the department being a family.
To combat dropping recruitment numbers, Allen said he wants to explore options for Fire Department members to get childcare assistance so they can more easily afford volunteering for the community.
Allen said he will also look to move the department into a new facility. The current fire station, located at 700 Main St. in Downtown Union Grove, has held the department since 1974. Since then, the department has far outgrown the station.
“We’ve got probably 50 pounds of stuffed packed into a 15-pound bag,” Allen said
As for Czerniak, his paramedic license is good through 2020, so he said he wants to stick around the Fire Department through then to help in whatever capacity he can.
He said he also will retire from teaching emergency medical services courses at Gateway Technical College this June. He has taught at Gateway since 1980. Czerniak recently helped develop a program that allows high school students taking emergency medical technician classes through Gateway to do ride-alongs on emergency runs to observe EMTs and paramedics in order to gain experience.
Czerniak is not stopping his public service yet. He said will stay on as deputy medical examiner for Racine County, a title he has held since 2004, for as long as he is able.
“Out of my three part-time jobs, I’m giving up two,” Czerniak said.
“Tim (Allen) has worked long and hard and proved himself over the years as being a good leader for the future of the department.” Mike Aimone, Union Grove village president