Ill. firefighters surprised with new beds

Some of their old mattresses were more than 10 years old, and the box springs were ripped

By Mick Zawislak
The Chicago Daily Herald

VERNON HILLS, Ill. — Firefighters generally are light sleepers, knowing they may have to spring out of bed at any time to answer a call.

But a surprise gift delivered Monday will make what rest the firefighters at the Countryside Fire Protection District headquarters in Vernon Hills do get more relaxing.

"This is awesome," said Battalion Chief Chris Reynolds, plopping down on one of the dozen new mattresses in the bunk room supplied by Simmons Bedding Co.

"There's going to be a lot of snoring going on tonight," he predicted late Monday morning after the new bedding was revealed to red-shift personnel, the first of three shifts to try it.

Firefighters later lunched on sandwiches at the new kitchen tables that also were part of a coordinated, stealth effort between Simmons, Steinhafels Furniture and top fire officials to update the living quarters.

"Eight people a day sleep here, so it's a lot of wear and tear," Fire Chief Jeff Steingart said.

"It's like cold-starting your engine," he said of being roused to answer a call. "It's not the best for your muscles and joints. A good mattress will probably help."

Once the crew left for training at a nearby business park,

trucks and workers swooped in to remove the old furniture and set up the new. Camera crews followed the action and recorded the "wows" and "holy cows" when firefighters returned more than two hours later.

Some of the old mattresses were more than 10 years old, and the box springs were ripped. All were on the list to be replaced.

The new mattresses are the redesigned ComforPedic Loft memory foam collection, aimed at better airflow and cooler sleeping.

Retail value is about $22,000, according to Jeff McCray, representing Simmons.

Steinhafels, Wisconsin's top furniture retailer, recently opened its first Illinois store in Vernon Hills.

It also is one of Simmons' largest Midwest accounts and the first retailer in the country to roll out the new mattresses, he said.

Steinhafels donated about $6,000 in furniture, including three dining room sets, two oversize leather recliners and a pub table for games and reading.

"It just happened to be the timing our rollout nationally and their rollout here," McCray said of the partnership.

Countryside's headquarters was the second of five stations to be outfitted by Simmons and a local retailer as part of a national initiative.

"We're honored to help create a comfortable place for these heroes to relax and unwind," Gary Steinhafel, president and CEO of the furniture chain, said in a news release.

The unveiling, which followed about two months of coordination, coincided with Fire Prevention Week as a thank you to local firefighters.

"It's a good partnership, and at the end of the day, it saves the taxpayers a few bucks," Steingart said.

Copyright 2011 Paddock Publications, Inc.

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