Proposed elimination of Station 4, EFD personnel leads to backlash


Alison Albelda/Daily Senior Staffer

A firefighter/paramedic stands in front of Station 4’s fire engine. City manager Wally Bobkiewicz said if the proposed budget is approved, Station 4 will be shut down and the building will be sold.

Ruiqi Chen, Reporter

A $1.2 million cut to the Evanston Fire Department in the city’s proposed 2019 budget would mean eliminating nine positions and shutting down Station 4, which has led to pushback from current and former EFD personnel as well as city residents.

The suggested reduction is the largest for any city department and follows a 2018 budget cut of $288,762 for EFD.

Station 4 — located at 1817 Washington St. — is in the 2nd Ward and services the southwest region of Evanston. City manager Wally Bobkiewicz said if City Council approves the proposed budget in November, the building that houses Station 4 will be sold and nearby stations will take over emergency services for the area.

“It’s the one that will make the most sense to sell because it’s tiny, it’s in a residential neighborhood, it’s not been improved significantly in (the) recent past,” Bobkiewicz said at an Oct. 4 press briefing.

However, in an email to The Daily, Evanston Fire Local 742 Union executive board members Ryan Roeder and Billy Lynch said “recklessly” closing Station 4 would compromise the safety that Evanston residents deserve by causing delays in service. They said the city’s five fire stations are “strategically situated” to respond to emergencies.

According to EFD’s 2017 Annual Report, the department responded to just over 10,000 emergency calls last year. Former EFD Chief Greg Klaiber wrote in an Oct. 7 Facebook post that 1,173 of those calls were located in the neighborhood serviced by Station 4, which is typically staffed by one captain, two firefighter/paramedics and one fire engine.

Evanston and Northwestern are serviced by only two ambulances and seven firefighter/paramedic-staffed vehicles — five engines and two trucks. According to the proposed budget, after Station 4 is shut down, its fire engine will also be removed from service. Klaiber said engines located at Madison Street and Emerson Street would have to cover the area, resulting in increased response times.

“It’s one thing to do more with the same (resources), it’s quite another for our fire department to be asked to do a lot more with a lot less,” Klaiber wrote.

Roeder and Lynch’s joint statement echoed Klaiber’s post, calling the proposed closure “particularly concerning” because of the already limited resources that EFD has. On top of that, they said the number of EMS calls has more than doubled in recent decades, though there has been no increase in the number of responding personnel.

The proposed budget’s decrease of nine EFD positions — one layoff of an active firefighter/paramedic and the elimination of eight vacant spots — would only increase the strain, Roeder and Lynch said.

“Make no mistake, the effects of an irresponsible proposal like this would be felt in every corner of this City,” they wrote.

The city will hold a public hearing about the budget on Oct. 27, and each ward will be hosting informal budget review sessions through Oct. 24. Residents can also use the city website to comment on the proposal before the final vote in November.

Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd), whose ward houses Station 4, said he has received “much feedback” from residents who are against closing the station.

“Eliminating that fire station … increases the chances of someone dying,” Braithwaite said. “I’m going to take (a) very close look at the numbers to find a way to keep it open.”

Kristina Karisch contributed reporting.

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