Quantcast

Likely layoff impact: Add ambulance, cut fire engine

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.

Editors’ Picks