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Former East Peoria assistant fire chief nominated for Peoria Heights chief position

Village of Peoria Heights fire chief nominee Dan Decker is currently an East Peoria city council member and a fire marshal at the Clinton nuclear power plant.
City of East Peoria
Village of Peoria Heights fire chief nominee Dan Decker is currently an East Peoria city council member and a fire marshal at the Clinton nuclear power plant.

After months of searching, the village of Peoria Heights may have found its new fire chief.

Dan Decker is a former assistant chief in East Peoria. He started his firefighting career in 1991. Decker is currently an East Peoria City Council member and a fire marshal at the nuclear power facility in Clinton.

“But when the opportunity came with Peoria Heights, not only is it maybe 15 minutes from my house, rather than approximately an hour from my house,” Decker said. “But I knew going out the door of East Peoria that I would have a hard time giving up going on emergency calls.”

Peoria Heights Mayor Mike Phelan led the interview process that found Decker, saying he’s excited to introduce Decker to the board Tuesday night.

“He's both been a leader in public safety and he's a public official in East Peoria,” Phelan said. “And a known leader with a long career in fire service. So I think it'd be a huge asset to the village.”

Decker’s very first task, if he’s appointed, will be a thorough review of the mostly volunteer department. The village has been in talks for years regarding the structure of the department and an apparent need for more full or part-time personnel.

At one point last summer, the board considered contracting some of their fire service to the city of Peoria.

Decker said he’s prepared to lead the department through this transitional period. He believes it’s an issue that’s not unique to the Peoria Heights’ volunteer department.

“It is very difficult to remain a firefighter in today's times, because of all the education, the continuing education,” Decker said. “Just in the last few years, the continuing education [requirement] for regular fire certificates has, I mean, just exploded.”

Many of the discussions about the department have been very public, with crowded village board meetings and a vocal community. Phelan said many of the changes Decker could recommend, like hiring personnel or purchasing additional equipment, would require board approval.

“Myself, the administrator, and I don't think the board is going to have any desire to micromanage him,” Phelan said. “I believe we're all unified in the fact that we want to commit resources to the fire department.”

That’s the impression Decker said he’s gotten from their conversations so far.

“They didn't give me any walking orders, I guess,” he said. “Just for me to figure out what I believe to be the best path and bring that back to them.”

Phelan said the position's salary is $120,000. Decker would leave his role at the Clinton nuclear plant, butl continue to reside in East Peoria and serve on the city council if he gets the job.

“I think it would be very rare that, just like anybody, whether you work in Caterpillar or anyplace else, I think it'd be very rare that it will cause a time conflict,” he said.

The Village of Peoria Heights board meets Tuesday night to vote on Decker’s role. Phelan said he expects board approval.

Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.