Evanston aldermen are scheduled to get a report Monday on how the Fire Department’s staffing compares with that of similar communities as they look for ways to eliminate a projected multi-million dollar budget deficit for next year.

According to a report prepared by Fire Chief Brian Scott, Evanston generally has similar fire department staffing level and call volume to other Illinois communities of similar size.

All the communities listed, Scott says, staff engines and trucks with three firefighters and ambulances with two.

Evanston appears to be unique in the group in typically staffing five engine companies and only two ambulances.

Most of the others, based on data from the unofficial Chicago Area Fire Departments website, appear to routinely staff three or four ambulances and three or four engines.

Evanston, depending on demand, does temporarily shift the crew from one engine to a third ambulance.

The number of annual ambulance runs in Evanston has increased by nearly 20 percent over the past 10 years, while the number of fire calls has remained steady or declined slightly.

An ambulance and an engine are dispatched for the typical ambulance run, while at least three vehicles respond to fire calls.

Scott says the staffing configuration for Evanston’s department has remained the same for over 35 years.

He notes that under the city’s contract with the International Association of Fire Fighters, any change in staffing levels would be subject to negotiation and potentially to binding arbitration.

A map included in Scott’s report indicates that for the vast majority of city residents, a fire engine can respond to their home or business in under three minutes. The only area on the map showing a response time of between three and four minutes is in the far southwest corner of the city.

A less than four minute response time is considered a national standard for fire departments.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Why dispatch an ambulance and fire truck?

    When a call is made for a medical emergency and an ambulance is dispatched, why does a fire engine also get dispatched? 

    In ecologically aware Evanston, this extra pollution isn’t necessary.

    In financially constrained Evanston, this extra expense isn’t necessary.

    Can someone provide some information and insight for this policy which hasn’t changed in

    over 35 years?

    1. EMS runs

      Hi Parent,

      A couple of reasons are frequently cited.

      1. If a patient has to be carried from their residence to the ambulance, it frequently takes more than two people to carry them safely without risking injury to the firefighters from the heavy lifting, which in turn would lead to worker’s compensation claims against the city.

      2. The fire engines and trucks are equipped with advanced life support equipment, and since there are five engines and two trucks, one of them can frequently get to a patient more quickly than either of the two ambulances could and can begin the work of stabilizing the patient’s condition before transportation to the hospital.

      — Bill

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