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College town eyes fire-fighting alternatives

Despite ongoing budget woes, Evanston officials so far have dismissed the idea of making any major changes to how fire protection is delivered to the community — but towns elsewhere are considering some major shifts.

Despite ongoing budget woes, Evanston officials so far have dismissed the idea of making any major changes to how fire protection is delivered to the community — but towns elsewhere are considering some major shifts.

In Ann Arbor, Mich., home to the University of Michigan, officials over the weekend discussed the possibility of shifting to a "paid on-call" system to provide part of its fire department staffing as part of their response to declining city revenues.

Ann Arbor now has a full-time paid fire staff of 89 for a town of 113,000 people. That compares to 110 in Evanston’s fire department to serve 78,000 people — or a little more than half Evanston’s current per-capita staffing level.

Some Ann Arbor officials are looking to the Detroit suburb of Troy for inspiration on cost savings. That town of 80,000 people has a combination of 13 full-time fire department employees and 180 certified, trained volunteers. It also has the same class 3 fire insurance rating as Evanston.

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