With cuts to the city’s Fire Department in Evanston’s proposed budget for next year, here’s a look at how we compare to other nearby communities of similar size.

The table above shows figures from the four largest communities in the MABAS Division 3 service area that includes Evanston.

(It excludes the Glenview Fire Department, which in addition to serving its namesake community with a population of nearly 48,000 also serves an estimated 12,000 additonal residents of unincorporated areas within the Glenbrook Fire Protection District.)

The data also includes Oak Park and Waukegan, two other metro area communities that are somewhat similar in size.

Much of the data comes from a memo distributed to aldermen by Fire Chief Brian Scott.

What we can see from the data is that:

  • We have the third highest ratio of firefighters to residents.
  • We have the third highest call volume per 1,000 residents.
  • We have the third highest rate of spending per capita on fire and ambulance services.
  • Our average response time is second best in the group.
  • We have the second smallest geographic area for a fire department to cover.
  • We are tied with Waukegan for the largest number of stations.
  • We are in the middle of the pack in terms of household income — a measure of our ability to pay for fire services.
  • We have the second highest poverty rate of any of the communities in the group.

If, as proposed in the new budget, nine firefighter positions were eliminated:

  • We would drop to having 1.31 firefighters per 1,000 residents, moving from third to fourth position in the group.
  • Average response times would increase. Exact figures haven’t been calculated. But a map distributed by the fire chief suggests that the average would still be below the 4 minute goal recommended by the National Fire Protection Association.
  • We’d cut Fire Department costs by $1.32 million a year, according to the proposed budget. That would reduce our cost per resident from $325 a year to about $307 a year.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Additional information needed

    Evanston densest population is in the south end of the city. It would make sense to have fire stations where the most people are affected. Of the cities mentioned in your chart, where are the stations located within the municipal boundries? Where are the areas of densest population areas in these cities? The revised map presented by Chief Scott shows a hole in coverage areas. Not to mention Evanston’s narrow and overparked streets which cause fire equipment to slow down if they can even fit…

    1. More data

      Hi Angry,

      Portions of south Evanston have relatively high population densities, other parts don’t. And there are two fire stations in south Evanston now.

      Call volume figures for last year from the fire chief:

      • Engine 21 (Emerson at Wesley, just west of downtown) — 3532
      • Engine 22 (Madison at Custer, in southeast Evanston) — 2299
      • Engine 23 (Central at Girard, in northeast Evanston) –1299
      • Engine 24 (Washington at Dodge, in southwest Evanston) — 1626
      • Engine 25 (Central at Reese, in northwest Evanston) — 1247

      The relatively low numbers for the two stations on Central Street explain why the city manager says an alternative to closing Station 4 could be to close one of the two Central Street stations.

      — Bill

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