Steve Iovinelli was working with his father at a heating and air conditioning company when he saw a help wanted ad in the paper for firefighters in Franklin Park. Intrigued, he went down to the station to ask a few questions, and the answers sparked his interest. He took the test and, at 24 years old, he joined the department, moving up the ranks to fire chief two years ago.
Though he went directly from heating and air conditioning to firefighting, Iovinelli stresses that firefighting requires constant education.
“If you become a fire fighter and you think your days of school have ended, you’re wrong,” he explains. “You have to be willing to learn because this job has changed so much. There are always new tactics to fighting fires, and new tools to help you.
“Fire fighting is now an educated person’s job,” he continues. “There are so many things that have changed throughout the years with how buildings are built, and you need to stay on top of these trends. We are constantly training to keep pace with new developments.”
A man of his word, Iovinelli recently went back to school online to earn his bachelor’s degree in fire service administration.
That focus on education was put to the test recently when the Franklin Park Fire Department took over the paramedic program. “For years, ambulances were contracted out by a private company, but when money got tight we decided to take the ambulances back and do it ourselves,” he explains. “It was a huge undertaking and many men had to go back to school for the training, but in the long run it paid off.”
Literally. They have saved the village of Franklin Park $700,000 annually by bringing the program in house. “People didn’t think we could do it, but we did.”
Iovinelli has seen a lot on the job after nearly 32 years in the department, but one of his proudest moments occurred only recently. “Last week, two men in my department received the Medal of Valor for a rescue they made in a fire. That event was more important than any promotion because it defines what this department is all about,” he recalls. “We work hard and we do the right thing and it pays off. Watching those two men get the reward and being congratulated by the state office was a huge accomplishment.”
Although he very much enjoys being chief, he misses the days of being a fireman. “The further you go up on the ladder in you department the further you get from getting to go into a burning building and save lives. The higher you go, the less dirty your hands get, and in this job, it’s all about getting your hands dirty,” he says with a smile.
As for young men and women interested in becoming firefighters, Iovinelli has this advice to offer: “A lot of departments require going to school and becoming an EMT or a paramedic. So definitely do that first and then take the test. Every test there is, take it. Don’t be disheartened or discouraged if you don’t make it immediately, it takes some time.”
According Iovinelli, firefighting is well worth the extra effort. “I love my job, there’s no other career like this. It’s the most rewarding career you’re going to find.”