Peoria Fire Chief Bobby Ruiz

Peoria Fire Chief Bobby Ruiz said the city’s fire and police departments work well together.

The Peoria Chamber of Commerce hosted Peoria Chief of Police Art Miller and Fire Chief Bobby Ruiz at a networking breakfast at the Montecito Senior Living Jan. 7. 

Each spoke about the departments’ relationships with each other and the community.

Miller told the group of business owners and interested citizens gathered for breakfast the fire and police departments have a better relationship at this time than they have in years prior.

Among the police departments’ new challenges is tackling mental health issues.

He said the department is working to find the best methods of handling the emotional stress the job creates for employees.

Another major focus of the department, Miller added, is the homeless population in Peoria. As of the meeting, there are about 45 documented homeless in the area, about double the number of a few years ago. 

Miller told of a man who was asking for money to provide his son insulin for seven or eight years. Police are not certain the man’s son exists. He also recalled the department passing a homeless man who had thrown away full bags of takeout food people gave him. He only wanted money.

He advised to avoid giving cash to the homeless begging for it.

“There’s so many services available from our department and the city, if you want to give money, give it to the organization that provides the services. That forces them to go get the services we provide,” Miller said.

“We have it available, so if they don’t come and get them, it’s on those people.”

Ruiz of the fire department said a major focus of his staff is on understanding technology and the implications of new power sources, after a major battery explosion took a physical toll on Peoria hazmat technicians in April.

Four Peoria firefighter suffered burns at the APS McMicken Energy Storage facility and the department is eager to learn as much about the new energy and its benefits and dangers as possible.

“I’ve spent so many hours talking to experts on the chemistry and science behind those batteries and I’m going all over getting as much information as I can on it,” he said.

He stressed again the importance of fire and police departments working together.

“When you need help, you don’t care what color the truck is. What you want is competent people and nice compassionate people, who come and treat you and your family right and provide the best possible service,” Ruiz said. 

“And it’s what we are here and I know the police department is aiming to also do.”