Coronavirus has claimed a victim on the Springfield Fire Department.

Fire chief Allen Reyne, who has coordinated the city's response to coronavirus since last spring, says that his retirement, announced at Tuesday's city council meeting, was hastened by the burden of a pandemic that has claimed at least 76 lives in Sangamon County since last spring.

Reyne himself fell ill less than two weeks ago. Handling COVID issues, he said, has been stressful and influenced his decision to retire. Monday, Nov. 16, was Reyne's first day back in the office, and that's when he told Mayor Jim Langfelder that, effective Dec. 1, he's done.

"I made the decision over the last couple months – I made the decision talking to my wife, and just the stress of the job," Reyne said. "This is not anybody's fault. I'm not mad at anything but COVID. This has made the last year of my career a nightmare. It's not been fun to go in and out of firehouses – you feel like you're managing the place different. ... It's just not ideal. That's not anybody's fault – that's not the governor's fault, that's not the mayor's fault and it's certainly not my fault, either."

The chief acknowledged that leaving while COVID cases surge is not ideal.

"My timing could not be worse," Reyne said. "I understand that, but the fire department's fine – the COVID response is going to be fine."

Reyne, 50, has spent 21 years at the Springfield Fire Department. Bound by union contract, the mayor must appoint a replacement from within current ranks. Langfelder said that he has not identified a replacement. Reyne was named chief in 2018; his predecessor was chief for less than three years before retiring, and the chief before that was in the position for four years before taking retirement. After this week's council meeting, Langfelder, whose term is up in 2023, said that he expected that Reyne would retire during the final two years of his administration, but not as soon as he has.

Reyne during an interview said that he had intended to tell Langfelder that he was retiring sooner than he did. "I think he was a little surprised by my decision," Reyne said. "I wanted to give him another week's notice, but I got COVID. I made the decision before that."

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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