Fire staffing: How does Evanston compare?


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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