Most proposals for redeploying Evanston Fire Department staff once scheduled layoffs take effect July 31 call for taking a fire engine out of service but putting a third ambulance on the road.

Fire Station 3 on Central Street (City of Evanston file photo).

Most proposals for redeploying Evanston Fire Department staff once scheduled layoffs take effect July 31 call for taking a fire engine out of service but putting a third ambulance on the road.

Fire Station 3 on Central Street (City of Evanston file photo).

The layoffs announced last week would reduce daily shift staffing to 25 firefighters. That, Interim Chief Greg Klaiber says, would leave the department one person short of the 26 needed to provide minimum safe staffing of three people for each of five engines and two trucks while also staffing two ambulances with two people each.

In a memo distributed to aldermen, Klaiber said four of the seven options he’s developed involve putting the city’s third ambulance into routine service and parking a fire engine, because the ambulance can be operated safely with one less person.

The number of ambulance runs has increased in recent years while the number of fire calls has decreased somewhat.

Currently a three-person crew is routinely scheduled to staff Engine 23 at Station 3 on Central Street at the North Shore Channel, but switches to Ambulance 23 when demand for ambulance runs is high and the engine isn’t being used.

Klaiber said the city could:

Rotate which engine is out of service

The chief says that would “spread the pain” around to the city’s five fire stations.

But because Station 4 on Washington Street near Dodge Avenue and Station 5 on the west end of Central Street are single-unit stations, those parts of town would at best be left with only an ambulance working out of their closest station when the rotation reached their neighborhoods.

Park Engine 21

Station 1 on Emerson Street near downtown is the city’s most centrally located station and is also staffed with Ambulance 21 and a batallion chief’s car.

Klaiber says that by dividing its engine district into four parts, the increase in response time would be less than what would occur if Engine 24 or Engine 25 were taken out of service. But he noted that the area served by Engine 21 has had “the greatest need for fire suppression services.”

Park Engine 23

That engine’s coverage area would be split between the Emerson and West Central stations. Ambulance 23 and Truck 23 would remain at Station 3.

Klaiber notes that would increase fire response times to the northeast section of town. Station 3 also serves most of the Northwestern University campus and the university recently agreed to pay for a new city fire engine.

Park Truck 23

Under this plan, Klaiber says, he would move the city’s remaining aerial ladder truck from Station 2 to the more centrally located Station 1.

But he says the department’s guidelines call for having two ladder trucks respond to every working fire and all high-rise fires, because they perform key functions at fire scenes. And he added that it’s more difficult to get mutual aid trucks than engines to respond from nearby towns because of those communities’ own equipment limitations.

Klaiber’s three other  options, which would not put a third ambulance in routine service, include:

Park Ambulance 22

That would mean no reduction in the number of fire engines in service, and since all the engines have advanced live support equipment, the crews could care for medical patients while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. But, Klaiber says, it would mean the backup ambulance at Station 3 would be placed in service more, reducing fire coverage from that station. And it would also mean Evanston would have to call on neighboring communities more often for help with ambulance runs.

Hire back on overtime

Klaiber says the city could temporarily maintain current staffing by bringing in firefighters on overtime. But then the city would exhaust its overtime budget before year end.

Shift fire prevention staff

Klaiber says the city could fill two of the three shift positions eliminated by shifting firefighters now working in the Fire Prevention Bureau back to shift work. But that, he says, would cut the fire prevention staff in half and severely impact fire inspections, investigations and code enforcement.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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6 Comments

  1. Options Are Unacceptable!

    Evanston citizens, wake up!  The Aldermen we elected to keep our city safe have to step up and make City Manager Wally B. continue negotiations with the Fire Union.  Taking a truck or an ambulance off the streets of Evanston makes it dangerous for all of us.   When you dial 911 and expect help to arrive for either a fire, car accident, heart attack, don’t you want a full staff of firefighters to respond ?  The proposals to switch trucks with ambulances are unacceptable.  Call your Aldermen and insist on the negotiations to continue and to rescind the layoffs of  three firefighters from the department.  Our elected officials have to answer to us.  Why did the decision to layoff three firefighters take place behind close doors?  What is going on?

    1. Wally’s Career Ambitions

      The decision to layoff those three firefighters is not about financial responsibility or best use of Evanston’s resource.  It is about Wally’s career ambition.  Wally barely has residence in Evanston. He is living in his father’s condo on the border with Skokie.  His wife lives in another state.  He will be moving onto the next job very quickly.  But his resume is weak.  He managed a tiny town in rural California.  Several departments in Evanston have bigger budgets than this town.  He is using Evanston to hide the weaknesses.  Firing the firefighters is just a way to position himself for the job.

  2. Wake up–So you don’t want to

    Wake up–So you don’t want to do the work of 3 Yes, 3 firefighters laid off.  When your not fighting fires what do you do?  This is a real gut-check, and seemingly your gut is too big?  Pick up the slack.

  3. Union ire should focus on Wally’s bosses – the City Council

    Here’s another personal attack on Wally B.

    So now the reason Wally wants to layoff three Evanston firemen is because he has career ambitions. What does living in his father’s condo and his wife living out of state have to do with his recommendation to pare the bloated city budget by cutting staff?

    The Evanston Fire Union is misdirecting it’s anger and attacks. They should go after those who hired Wally B. – the mayor and City Council.

    I don’t know if the Evanston Fire Union is playing a game of good cop, bad cop with Wally B. and the Council. But if Wally B’s intentions are genuine – to layoff three firemen in a severe Recession with a city budget deep in the red – then why doesn’t the Evanston Fire Union focus their anger at Wally’s bosses – the mayor and Council – and launch personal attacks in that direction?

    Afterall, the mayor and just about everyone on the Council received campaign donations from the Evanston Fire Union.

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