Excerpts from the DailyHerald.com:
A proposal to combine the resources of the Lisle-Woodridge and Darien-Woodridge fire protection districts is being touted as a way to enhance service and improve firefighter safety.
That’s providing little comfort, however, for residents near Downers Grove who will lose their neighborhood fire station if the intergovernmental agreement is approved.
The Darien-Woodridge fire board last week unanimously supported the automatic response agreement that would have both districts operate as a single entity. Lisle-Woodridge’s board is expected to take a deciding vote on the deal Tuesday.
“The advantage for us is we’re going to have more efficient use of staffing and resources,” said Keith Krestan, Lisle-Woodridge’s interim fire chief. “Instead of our five stations and their three stations, it’s going to be seven stations. And we’re going to intermix our resources — our engines, our trucks, our ambulances and our people.”
The plan calls for Darien-Woodridge Station 88 at the southeast corner of Belmont Road and 59th Street to close on May 1. Officials say the closure would be for a trial period that would end Dec. 31, 2018.
Some residents served by that station fear it will never reopen.
Fire officials said the neighborhood would be served by other stations, including one in the Lisle-Woodridge district that’s less than two miles away. As a result, response times to those homes would go up. Officials, however, insist the quality of service would improve.
Now, Darien-Woodridge is able to assign only two firefighters to engines and the ladder. By closing Station 88 and shuffling staff, the department would be able to assign three people per vehicle. Lisle-Woodridge already does that.
“This is the best thing from a fire chief’s perspective for everybody involved,” said Darien-Woodridge Chief Steven Gorsky, adding it’s unfair to residents and patently unsafe for firefighters to have fewer than three people on a fire suppression vehicle.
While the arrangement might sound like a money-saving move, Darien-Woodridge board members say it’s about safety.
Lisle-Woodridge and Darien-Woodridge officials spent more than a year developing a functional cooperation plan after a 2016 study by the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association examined what the impact would be on emergency services if the districts operated as one.
Krestan said the departments aren’t ready for consolidation at this point, so they decided to start with cooperation.
While the deal has been in the works for years, residents served by Station 88 said they were only recently notified about the plan.
DuPage County Board member Liz Chaplin, who lives in the area, said neighbors were notified about the closure in a leaflet that arrived in the mail less than a week before the vote by Darien-Woodridge.
Art Thompson, a district vice president with the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois — the union that paid for the 2016 study — said no one went into the talks with the intention of closing a fire station.
“The idea was how could we better utilize the resources we have to better serve the community,” he said.