Posts Tagged Barrington Countryside Fire Chief Jeff Swanson

Barrington Countryside FPD … begins service

The Barrington-Courier Review has an article about the launch of the new, independent Barrington Countryside FPD:

Despite many tumultuous and emotional months leading up to the village of Barrington and [Barrington] Countryside Fire Protection District’s separation, both sides reported that the first week of independent operations went smoothly.

“It’s been very cohesive,” said Scott Motisi, protection fire district battalion chief. “We put a program together that incorporated not only new members but those who came over from the village of Barrington. It’s a group mentality. Everyone has helped each other in training and sharing specialties.”

Jeff Swanson, the district’s chief and administrator, reported that the seven days were greeted by about 50 calls for service across the Countryside’s 46-square-mile area territory.

The Barrington Fire Department has responded to 29 calls within its 5-square-mile coverage area, reported Fire Chief James Arie. “It’s going great,” Arie said. “The guys have adjusted to the new arrangement. There have been no issues or hiccups.”

Even the extreme weather that started with heavy snow Jan. 4 and continued with bitter cold into Jan. 6 didn’t prove to make each side’s first week overly difficult.

The most taxing day for the Countryside Protection District was Jan. 8, when its firefighters responded to 15 calls including several about pipes bursting due to thawing. Motisi, a former lieutenant with the Barrington Fire Department, said the calls were all handled without the need for mutual aid. One of three new battalion chiefs recently hired by the district, Motisi said his agency is continuing to adapt to the dramatic change in local fire services.

The district has received new equipment including hydraulic-powered ambulance cots for transporting patients and a 3,000 gallon tanker.

October and November was dedicated to orientation, Motisi explained, and the district’s focus has since shifted to training. District firefighters have trained on breathing apparatus, reviewed response protocols, practiced for search and rescue situations, and gone over the layouts of area hospitals. And changes are still coming to the district. The firehouses are expecting delivery of new ambulances and the hiring of six additional firefighter/paramedics.

Arie said the village department’s transition has been smooth because most of its 16 firefighters are familiar with Barrington.

Serving a smaller footprint, the 16 firefighters are split over three shifts at the public safety building, with a shift commander for each. Like the district, Arie said his firefighter/paramedics are enthusiastic and prepared to serve.

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Dispute arises between the Barrington FD and the Barrington Countryside FPD

The Daily Herald has another article on the split between the Village of Barrington Fire Department and the Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District.

The Barrington Fire Department and Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District went their separate ways as scheduled New Year’s Day — but not without some last-minute miscommunication. Even though the 48-square-mile fire district received 19 firefighters laid off by the village of Barrington at the stroke of midnight, those firefighters weren’t allowed to bring their individually fitted safety gear with them.

This forced the fire district to borrow gear from the Fox River Grove Fire Protection District a few days before the split, and to begin making arrangements to lease gear from elsewhere during the coming months.

Barrington Village Manager Jeff Lawler said the issue arose from the fact that the district didn’t hire the laid-off firefighters directly, but through the private contractor Paramedic Services of Illinois. “It is taxpayer property and we can’t just give it to someone else without the proper legal mechanism to do so,” Lawler said. He added that this issue was addressed in a conversation with fire district officials in early December and he didn’t understand how they could have overlooked it.

Barrington Countryside board President Tom Rowan said the conversation Lawler referred to is one only the village of Barrington seems to recall.

Because the fire district and village of Barrington co-owned all the equipment they shared during their decades-long contractual relationship, it was meant to be divided evenly at the end as all the vehicles were, Rowan said.

Barrington Countryside Fire Chief Jeff Swanson said that while rules should be followed, they should never get in the way of safety. While the legalistic separation of the gear could have been worked out over time, the firefighters needed to be using it on New Year’s Day, he said.

Barrington Countryside employs a total of 34 firefighters through Paramedic Services of Illinois. Only the 19 laid off from the Barrington Fire Department were affected by the dispute over the equipment. Swanson said the specially fitted equipment newly ordered for these employees isn’t expected to arrive until the spring. They will be using leased equipment in the meantime.

Apart from this issue, both agencies reported that they’ve been fulfilling all their operational responsibilities since the split. The Barrington Fire Department’s jurisdiction narrowed from covering the district as well to just the village’s five square miles.

Rowan said morale is high among the fire district’s new staff, evidenced by their cleaning all their equipment anew just after receiving it from the village of Barrington after midnight Wednesday morning.

Barrington Countryside covers parts of Barrington Hills, Lake Barrington, South Barrington, Inverness and unincorporated Cook, Lake and McHenry counties. 

On a separate note, our information about the apparatus split is as follows:

The Village of Barrington Fire Department has:

  • one engine
  • the quint
  • the battalion buggy
  • two ambulances

The Barrington Countryside FPD has:

  • Two engines
  • the squad
  • the tanker (in addition to a newly acquired tanker)
  • two ambulances

At this point in time, we are unsure of the ownership of the brush unit.

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Barrington FD & Fire District update

The Daily Herald has an article about the separation of the Barrington FD and the Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District as the split nears:

An exchange of letters between the Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District and village of Barrington in late September 2012 began a 15-month process of separating their fire services that becomes real at the stroke of midnight this New Year’s Eve.

Only then will the true test of both agencies’ preparations begin, during a transitional period that will last anywhere from a minute to a year, depending who you ask. It will take a year to fully measure the finances of the fire district’s newly independent fire department, but the test of its operations should take only a few months, board President Tom Rowan said.

“To me, the measure of success is to provide even better service than we did before,” Rowan said. “That’s our goal, for people to say, ‘Wow, that’s a great operation!'” For Barrington Countryside Fire Chief Jeff Swanson, the obligation to be a great operation starts the moment his crew begins its first shift.

In addition to fire protection and ambulance service, the fire district will aim to be more community-focused — providing outreach and education through schools, churches, senior centers and other venues, Rowan said. The fire district covers 48 square miles that include parts of Barrington Hills, Lake Barrington, South Barrington, Inverness and unincorporated Cook, Lake and McHenry counties.

The district has two fire stations, one in Barrington Hills and one in Lake Barrington. It has begun looking for a third location that will improve response times. The district has automatic-aid agreements with several neighboring departments, but Barrington is not one of them.

The two agencies will provide one another with the more standard form of mutual aid — in the case of a big fire, it’s all hands on deck — but they don’t have an auto-aid agreement that spells out the specifics of going above and beyond mutual aid.

Countryside is trying to staff itself so it can depend less on mutual aid than before, Rowan said.

Barrington, however, considers the lack of an automatic-aid agreement with its old partner to be unfinished business, Barrington Fire Chief Jim Arie said. While the Barrington Fire Department is narrowing its focus to the village’s five square miles with the more experienced half of its staff, the lack of an auto-aid agreement with a neighbor ignores a basic tenet of emergency service, Arie said. “It takes some of our closest resources off the table,” he said. “That’s a change I’d prefer didn’t happen.”

The fact that fire district equipment will be passing through Barrington to reach areas of its jurisdiction flies in the face of using the closest available resources, Arie said. He just hopes it’s not at the expense of anyone’s well-being in the meantime.

The separation initially was sparked by fire district trustees’ frustration that their requests for more equipment and staff were regularly denied by Barrington officials, who ran the fire service for both jurisdictions. Now, Countryside trustees say they are satisfied with their starting staffing level. They will study whether their two water tankers are enough, since a large area of their territory is without hydrants, Rowan said.

Both Barrington and Countryside will experience a slight increase in their staffing levels relative to their jurisdiction size — Barrington to 18 firefighters and Barrington Countryside to 34.

Barrington Countryside’s staff will consist of 19 firefighters laid off by Barrington, with the rest hired from private contractor Paramedic Services of Illinois.

thanks Dan

Also, from the Barrington-Courier Review:

The Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District announced Friday that it will assist the village of Barrington’s Fire Department through the regional response program, but said it is no longer seeking an automatic aid pact with the village.

Reporting that negotiations are at a stalemate, district officials said they will rely on aid agreements with other neighboring agencies when independent fire operations begin Jan. 1.

“The [protection district] will gladly provide assistance to our neighbors in the village of Barrington through [the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System] whenever they need us,” District Chief Jeff Swanson said. “As we move forward, we will work with all our neighbors to continuously improve the levels of service provided to area residents and revise our current agreements when opportunities arise.”

“If Barrington needs us, all they have to do is make the call and we’ll send the cavalry,” District President Tom Rowan added. “We will provide whatever personnel and apparatus they may need that we have available.”

Starting Jan. 1, the Barrington Fire Department will serve its 5-square-mile area while the district focuses on its 46-square-mile area.

MABAS, a regional mutual aid system formed in 1968, includes more than 1,500 fire departments and districts across Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and Missouri. MABAS allows firefighter/paramedics to pool resources in situations such as multiple-alarm fires or weather-related disasters that exceed the capabilities of a single department or district.

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