City and fire union officials issued dueling news releases Monday after the city on Sunday carried out the scheduled layoff of three firefighters.

Union President Brian Scott focused on the decision to take one of the city’s two ladder trucks out of service and claimed the move placed Evanston residents “at increased risk.”

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said the change will increase the number of fire ambulances on duty from two to three as the two firefighters left from a three-person truck crew are shifted to what had been the city’s backup ambulance, so the city will continue to have nine fire units in service.

Bobkiewicz added that the union had formally asked Friday to resume bargaining with the city — after earlier demanding arbitration and filing unfair labor practice charges that remain unresolved.

The city manager said the city wants safety for residents and firefighters as well as “a labor agreement that recognizes the fiscal realities faced by the City and its taxpayers.”

Under the new deployment plan, the ladder truck formerly located at Fire Station #2 on Madison Street in south Evanston is being relocated to the centrally located Fire Station #1 on Emerson Street. The ladder truck formerly located at Fire Station #3 on Central Street in north Evanston is being taken out of service.

Bobkiewicz said that the new configuration “remains well withing guidelines of the National Fire Protection Association for response within a 2-1/2 mile radius of where the truck is stationed and a four minute first level response to all of Evanston.”

Scott said eliminating the ladder truck “could have the worst possible impact on a densely populated, vertical city like Evanston.”

He said the “irresponsible action” by the city manager would leave residents of mid and high-rise buildings at increased risk.

“Anyone who lives in a building four stories or taller should be very, very disturbed by this action,” Scott added.

The fire union has demanded that the city negotiate with it on staffing levels, a move the city has rejected as fiscally irresponsible.

Bobkiewicz criticized the union for “negotiating in public and investing its time and attention on spreading fear among the residents of Evanston.” 

Related documents

Union news release

City news release

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Fire Union

    I support the City Manager’s efforts in coping with our local demanding Fire Union.

  2. Help me understand

    The only thing the Fire Union is demanding is SAFETY for us (Evanston residents). Why is it that hard to understand?

    They are not asking for a salary increase. In fact, it sounds like they are taking a salary decrease but still putting their lives on the line for us. Please help me John understand how the firefighters are in the wrong?

    When you go to work in the morning and kiss your wife and kids goodbye are you prepared to put your life on the line for a total stranger? I sure don’t have the courage to do what they do.

    I recently found out that Evanston Fire Department runs roughly 9,000 emergency calls a year, pretty darn busy if you ask me. But you are right John lets keep supporting a City Manager who has no idea about firefighting or paramedic functions but yet keeps making poor decisions.

    The only thing the City Manager seems to be an expert on is food, eating and laying off Evanston employees.

  3. The first priority of the Evanston Fire Union is the fire union

    Other city fire departments have suffered layoffs, no overtime, voluntary furlough days and so on. Heck, Philadelphia’s mayor just enacted a rolling brownout of several fire departments and closing five fire engine companies.

    But no, here in Evanston any suggestion of laying off three rookie firefighters is an act of war, according to the Evanston Fire Union, which has launched personal attacks against our city manager and predictably scare tactics as did the Philadelphia Fire Union. And, the Evanston Fire Union is trying to dictate how the city should run the department.

    The majority of Evanston Fire Union members do not even live in Evanston. I’d like to know why aren’t the mayor and Council members livid about this gross display of arrogance from the Evanston Fire Union? 

    Perhaps it’s time to layoff more Evanston firefighters and privatize services like other towns are doing.

  4. These firefighters risk their

    These firefighters risk their lives and livelihood daily to protect the lives and property of the people of Evanston.  Their training includes rescue techniques to save the lives of people trapped inside burning buildings, but also advanced techniques to extinguish fires quickly to minimize property damage.  Their paramedic training provides them with the skills and knowledge to provide life-saving pre-hospital care. and reassurance to the scared patients and their family members.   

    While the day-to-day of the job entails risking their lives running into burning buildings, it also entail risking their backs, shoulders, and other joints lifting and transporting patients up and down stairs and out of precarious positions, often weighing up to 300 and 400 lbs.  In between calls, they are checking fire hydrants to ensure that they are in working order if and when your (Al and John) house should burn down.  They are ensuring that their equipment on their engines, trucks, and ambulances are in working order and stocked properly.  They participate in training for advanced rescue techniques so that they can repel into a trench to pull out a trapped construction worker who fell in, knowing that the trench could collapse in on them on their way down. 

    In between that, they make time for school groups and random passerby’s to come through the fire houses for tours and education on fire safety and prevention.  They provide fire safety inspections for local buildings and businesses.  They respond to fire alarms in homes, high rises, and businesses.

    They are not asking for pay raises, in fact, they are offering to take 0% increases and pay MORE into their own health insurance in order to maintain a minimum staffing so that they have the means to respond to the 911 calls in your community and can safely prevent further damage to the lives and property of the people of Evanston. 

    And when you (Al and John) have your inevitable karma-induced heart attacks for the uneducated statements you have put in print, they will respond quickly, professionally, and without bias to provide you with the best pre-hospital care possible to save your life, too. 

    1. what are those pensions worth?

      Martha, or anyone:

      Could you direct me to where I can examine the pension benefits of the firemen, and the police and the "ordinary" city employee? Is there a link for the public to see what the pensions provide? I’d assume this is public information, since the public is paying for it.

      Nobody disputes the abilities of the firemen, but I think folks would be interested in seeing how their own retirement benfits compare with those of the firemen, police and city workers in general  – amount of income received after a given number of years of work, health insurance if any, etc.

      1. Pension value

         Hi Clif,

        In general terms, the fire and police pensions programs provide 75 percent of final-year’s salary to employees who are at least 50 years old or have 30 years of service.

        They also get cost of living increases … survivor benefits … and more.

        For that they pay a bit less than 10 percent of their salary into the pension plan each year. The taxpayers pay the rest and also absorb all risk of shortfalls in investment performance.

        — Bill

        1. firemen’s benefits

          Thanks Bill

          Further facts I’d like to know – (about police and regular city employees as well, if possible)

          What is a fireman paid when first hired and what would a 50 year old fireman with 30 years of service make at minimum (if he is just a fireman with no upgrades to higer rank)?

          How much do firemen contribute to their health insurance? Is health insurance comprehensive, covering dental, prescriptions and eye exams? 

          Does health insurance continue after retirement?

          I assume that firemen do not get Social Security. Does that mean they are not eligible for Medicare?

          Is all of this information available to the public online? If not, how does a citizen find out?


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