Jacksonville Fire Chief Announces Retirement

By Jeremy Coumbes on October 25, 2023 at 12:12pm

The Jacksonville Fire Department’s “last tailboard rider” is officially calling it a career.

The fire department and the City of Jacksonville announced this morning that longtime Fire Chief Doug Sills has announced he will be retiring in November after 34 years with the department.

Mayor Andy Ezard says Chief Sills has had quite the career with not only the Jacksonville Fire Department but also his work in the region and statewide.

Ezard says he is glad Doug is getting the chance to retire, and the next Fire Chief will have some big shoes to fill. “You know Chief Sills, he is a FIREMAN. He’s somewhat old school, he takes it very seriously. I believe he’s really done a good job of advancing the department to where he feels It needs to be, and I’ve been on board with him all the way.

You know, it’s the old cliche of big shoes to fill but that holds true in this case. We’ve got some good qualified folks who are interested in filling his shoes, but we’re certainly going to miss Doug Sills. He’s made an impression on, not only on me but on where the fire department should be and what it could become. He’s done a heck of a job the nine years [as chief] working with him closely, so I wish the very very best for him and Sherry.”

Chief Sills speaks with an inspector with the Office of the Illinois Fire Marshal at the scene of a suspicious fire on North Church Street on Sunday, July 23rd of this year.

Chief Sills says, looking back over the last 34 years, and especially nine as Chief, he feels it’s been a wild ride. “Looking back on it, I think we completely overhauled the department, not only in the way we operate and respond but the requirements and the training, the level and the skills the guys deliver to the community I think speaks a lot for itself.

You know, the Jacksonville community, the City Council, and the Mayor have been supportive of our ever-revolving mission throughout the last several years. We’re now better built, better equipped, better trained. The equipment that we have now is specific to Jacksonville as far as the apparatus are concerned, along with modern upgrades and technology.”

Sills says he never thought he would see computers on fire trucks, but now the department has the ability for firefighters to pull up beneficial information right at the scene. As for his pending retirement, Chief Sills says he and his wife have discussed it over the last few years, and now seems like the right time for a change for both he and the department.

This last year, not that it’s been any different than the other years, but it just got to a point that I felt to keep the department moving forward that it needed a change in leadership. So it was basically my decision was based on what was best for this department moving forward. New Blood, new direction, new thoughts, just to keep things rolling and not become stagnant, and be able to deliver the best service possible.”

Chief Sills showed the new Fire Rescue Unit to WLDS News in October of this year.

Mayor Ezard says the search for a new Fire Chief has already begun, and he feels the right move is to look from within the department. “Actually I’m conducting internal interviews of our three Captains, and they’re good candidates. They are different styles, each one of them, and they will even tell you the same.

But again, they have been with the department a number of years and have different skill sets that I think will carry on what I think Chief Sills wants the fire department to look like in the future.”

Chief Doug Sills lives in Jacksonville with his wife Sherry and together they have three children. Sills’ last day on the job will be Saturday, November 11th.