Posts Tagged Woodstock Fire/Rescue District

Woodstock Fire/Rescue District news

Excerpts from the

At the end of the 2020-21 fiscal year next spring, the budget for the Woodstock Fire/Rescue District projects a surplus of $455,000. And with any luck, the $600,000 line-of-credit loan the WFRD Board of Trustees approved this spring will be the last time the district has to borrow money to meet the payroll. For that, the district can thank voters who last year passed a referendum, with nearly 65 percent approval, to increase the WFRD tax rate by 20 percent.

The increase means that the 2020 property tax bill will increase by about $150 a year for the owner of a home with a market value of $250,000. With an extra $1.3 million a year coming in from the tax increase, the district has plans to add personnel and upgrade equipment. Although the tax increase was approved 13 months ago, it won’t be until later this month or early June that the district sees any new money.

A four-year strategic plan was adopted by the board in August for upgrading personnel, equipment, and buildings for the district, which covers 90 square miles around Woodstock. Among the personnel moves planned is the hiring of a deputy chief, which is a position that was eliminated years ago to save money as district finances got tight. 

Trustees are scheduled to have a public hearing on the 2020-21 budget at their meeting May 28. It’s likely they will adopt the budget then. The proposal anticipates $9.7 million in revenue, 80 percent of it from property taxes. The budget includes $9.3 million in expenses, but would appropriate $11.2 million, giving the district some room in case additional income is received from grants or other sources.

This past fiscal year, grant money included $87,000 from the state for a new station alerting system. A $130,000 federal grant in 2018 equipped each of the district’s three ambulances with a power cot and load system.

Capital expenses in the new budget plan include $300,000 for a new ambulance, but no decision will be made until later when officials are convinced the budget is under control.

Among new expenses in the budget will be pay increases for about three dozen firefighter/paramedics, who agreed in 2018 to forgo 2.5 percent raises for the first two years of a new three-year contract. Although they will not receive back pay for the two years of raises they agreed to waive, they will get an increase of more than 8 percent, which will place them at the pay level required in the third year of the contract.

Coronavirus concerns have been costly for the district, and as a result, the district suspended the 2018 collective bargaining agreement, which included cancellation of time off for all personnel which has cost the district about $45,000 in overtime so far. The firefighters union agreed to the move at the time because it was unknown what the effect of COVID-19 would be. They have asked that the contract be re-instated now that the worst fears have not be realized, but the board declined, promising an ongoing review of the situation and an easing back into full terms of the agreement as circumstances allow.

One recent casualty of the situation is the suspension of having fire trucks visit the homes of children whose birthday parties were canceled because of the pandemic. While it was good public relations, it was beginning to interfere with the district’s operational readiness with  five or six trips a day


Woodstock Fire/Rescue District news

Excerpts from the

Woodstock Fire/Rescue District had a structure fire October 23rd in the 800 block of West Avenue.

A woman, the lone occupant of the home at the time of the fire, escaped without injury. The house had working smoke detectors, but the woman apparently fled after hearing commotion in the garage.

The garage was heavily damaged, as was a car inside that firefighters later had towed into the driveway. Some fire damage occurred in the attic, and smoke throughout the home made it uninhabitable. Relatives were arranging for the woman to stay elsewhere. Firefighters were on the scene for about two hours after being called at 5:41 p.m.

The district’s 12-member shift was stretched thin as two ambulances had been called out less than an hour before the fire, and a traffic accident at U.S. 14 and Hartland Road just before 6 p.m. also required an ambulance.

Patients had to be transported to hospitals outside Woodstock, which delayed getting a second ambulance to the scene of the fire.

The district’s initial response involved an engine, one ambulance, and the shift commander. A second call brought the chief and a ladder truck. Fire units from Wonder Lake, Union, and Huntley also were at the scene.

How rare are structure fires in Woodstock? Of the 458 calls the district responded to in September, only four were fire calls, and none matched the scope of last week’s call. In 2018, about 1 percent of all calls were fire-related, whereas 75 percent were ambulance-related.


Woodstock Fire/Rescue District news

Excerpts from the

With a more focused mission statement and a new four-year strategic plan, the Woodstock Fire/Rescue District is looking to improve as a professional department. The goals include specifics in such areas as staffing, equipment, fiscal responsibility, response times, health and wellness, and training.

65 percent of voters in an April referendum approved a property tax increase to address some of the problems the chief had pointed out in dozens of public informational sessions around the community. They want to restore staffing to 14 a day, up from the 12 that had been enacted last summer as a money-saving move. They want to bring back the jobs of deputy chief and fire prevention officer, positions that were eliminated to address the district’s financial troubles. Unfunded state mandates and rising pension costs caused the problems.

The district’s mission statement now  concisely says the district exists “to protect life and property through efficient and professional service to our community.” That document resulted from two meetings with community members, a risk assessment of more than 900 buildings in the 90-square-mile district, and an inventory of human and physical resources. The ultimate goal of the strategic plan will be to improve response times for fire and ambulance service, which now operates with 35 full-time professionals and several part-timers. Ambulance calls make up 75 percent of the district’s responses.

Once the board approves the plan, administrators will assign various district personnel to carry out implementation. The plan was designed to be carried out over the next four years. As a practical matter, funding from the property tax increase won’t start being available until next May, that will mean an additional $1.25 million the first year.

The plan also will help to determine how resources are used, including personnel, equipment, and money.

But everything the plan envisions would not have been possible without the successful referendum. Once the plan is approved, it will be available to the public on the WFRD website,

Tags: ,

Woodstock Fire/Rescue District news

Excerpts from the

With an extra $1.25 million a year from a voter-approved tax increase, the Woodstock Fire/Rescue District has big plans to add personnel and upgrade equipment, but until that property tax money starts rolling in about mid-2020, the Board of Trustees is sweating the small stuff.

At issue was how the district could find $5,250 to buy a barely used UTV from the Wonder Lake Fire District, an expense that wasn’t budgeted. Woodstock Chief Mike Hill wanted the vehicle as a brush truck, replacing a pickup truck mounted with a water tank and pump. The district’s brush truck was totaled in a traffic accident last winter, and insurance money went for a new pickup, but it’s not ideal for chasing field fires in muddy, swampy  fields in rural areas.

In the end, the board figured it could draw on the district’s contingency fund, which had about $10,000.

The previous month, the board approved 4.5 percent raises for the district’s mechanic and the chief’s executive assistant, which Hill said he had budgeted.

In other business, the board was told a year-long study, Community Risk Assessment & Standards of Cover, has been completed to prepare the district for creating a four-year strategic plan. The report includes a history of the fire/rescue service, an inventory of human and physical resources, and a risk assessment of more than 900 buildings throughout the district.

The 86-page report one of the biggest administrative projects ever taken on by the district. The goal was to use the information to improve response times for the fire and ambulance service.

Tags: ,

Woodstock Fire/Rescue District news

Excerpts from the

After working four months without a contract, Woodstock firefighters have ratified a new 3-year contract with the financially strapped Woodstock Fire/Rescue District. The contract was unchanged from the tentative agreement rejected July 6 by Woodstock Career Firefighters Local 4813.

But acceptance came after the fire chief and district board president met with union members to lay out a four-stage program for spending priorities.

Although pay increases are included in each year of the contract, firefighters have said they will forgo raises the first two years to help the struggling district. The most immediate impact of the new contract will be in reduced staffing for each shift, from 14 down to 12. A personnel shortage has forced the district to spend about $5,000 a day in overtime to meet the contractual obligation. Fire Chief Mike Hill said the new staffing model was scheduled to go into effect this past Sunday.

The union also adopted a resolution in support of a referendum to increase district revenues with a property tax increase, which would need voter approval. But district officials decided to delay the referendum until April to give them more time to inform the public about the district’s financial issues and the consequences if more revenue isn’t found to support fire and ambulance services.

The referendum, which had been placed on the ballot for the Nov. 6 election, would bring in nearly $1.17 million a year more in property taxes. District officials figure that would mean an extra $60 a year for a single-family residence with a fair market value of $100,000.

Woodstock city officials, who already are paying the district’s $36,000 annual increase in fees from the new regional dispatching service, will consider additional assistance during a city council work session Sept. 13.

After voting to ratify the new pact, Local 4813 members said concessions they made in the contract should save the district about $750,000 over the next two years. In addition to the pay freeze, firefighters forfeited an education allowance, accepted a reduced uniform allowance, and forfeited a vacation day.

The union noted it had made concessions before. In 2016, firefighters agreed to a cut in staffing, took a 25 percent reduction in holiday pay, and increased their contributions to the insurance plan to help offset lost revenue when the village of Lakewood canceled an intergovernmental agreement for fire protection.

Tags: , , ,

Woodstock Fire/Rescue District news

Excerpts from

Last Sept. 9, on their way to a training session with the McHenry County Sheriff’s SWAT team, two tactical EMS personnel heard a call that diverted them. A motorcycle had collided with a car, and the rider had been thrown from his bike. So the two EMTs – one from Woodstock, the other from Huntley – headed to the scene. They were soon joined by personnel from Woodstock in a rescue operation that, eventually, involved seven agencies.

For its’ quick action and good work, the district this week will receive the 24th annual Scene Call of the Year Award for 2017 from Flight For Life.

“The Woodstock Fire/Rescue District’s call highlights the teamwork that exists among fire departments, law enforcement agencies, dispatchers, hospitals and air medical services as they work together to provide the best possible patient outcome,” Flight For Life said in a news release. “It also illustrates the importance of critical thinking and decision-making, communication, use of mutual aid resources, scene safety and management and thinking outside the box.”

The first EMTs on the scene found the motorcyclist had suffered heavy trauma and they initiated care – blood control, airway control, splinting.

The award will be presented during the regular meeting of the district Board of Trustees at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Station 3, 2900 Raffel Road. In addition to Woodstock Fire/Rescue personnel, the ceremony will involve Northeast Regional Communications Center, which dispatched the call; McHenry County Sheriff’s Office; Woodstock Police Department; McHenry County Tactical Emergency Medical Support Team; Huntley Fire Protection District; and Flight For Life personnel who participated on the call.

Tags: ,

Woodstock Fire/Rescue District news

Excerpts from the Woodstockindependentcom:

Service cuts at Woodstock’s hospital could cost the Woodstock Fire/Rescue District hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional equipment and personnel.

About 44 percent of Woodstock-area ambulance transports in September bypassed Centegra Hospital-Woodstock for other hospitals, according to data from WFRD. By contrast, in January, about 10 percent of WFRD’s transports went elsewhere.

In mid-August, Centegra-Woodstock stopped accepting most inpatient admissions. The hospital continues to run a basic emergency room, and it offers other services, but patients who need overnight stays are being treated at Centegra-Huntley or Centegra-McHenry. That means WFRD’s ambulance runs for people with conditions ranging from serious allergic reactions to pneumonia must be transported out of town.

The additional drive time which comes with taking many patients from Woodstock to Huntley or McHenry has Fire Chief Michael Hill thinking about the future. For decades, Woodstock’s ambulance service has been structured for paramedics to deliver patients to the emergency room and be back on the road quickly — sometimes in just five or 10 minutes.

Now, Hill said, a trip to an out-of-town hospital can take an ambulance out of service for 35 to 40 minutes. For a district that runs about 12 calls a day, that time adds up. On occasion, if all three WFRD ambulances are out, crews from neighboring towns are called in to cover.

“If you go to the Woodstock hospital and drop off your patients, you’re ready to respond. An ambulance is available,” Hill said. “If you’re out in McHenry or Huntley, you’re too far away. You’re not available.”

A Centegra official said the health system is working with WFRD and that Woodstock’s ER can provide emergency care to the vast majority of patients.

“Our collaboration with Woodstock EMS is a work in progress, and we continue to discuss the ways to best serve patients in Woodstock and its surrounding communities,” Catie Schmit, Centegra’s director of emergency services, wrote in an email. “We are identifying additional opportunities for education to be sure patients are taken to the emergency room that provides the most appropriate care for their conditions.”

Hill cautioned WFRD’s most recent data only takes into account about a month’s worth of transports, so it’s still too early to decide if the district will need to hire more staff or buy another ambulance. But he said there’s a chance WFRD — and, by extension, taxpayers — will need to spend more to make up for the reduction in services at Woodstock’s hospital.

Buying a new ambulance would cost about $210,000, and hiring more employees to staff it would cost easily more than $100,000 a year in salaries, benefits and other expenses.

In the case of walk-ins to Centegra-Woodstock, private ambulances are being used to transport patients to other hospitals at their expense. (Insurance typically covers at least part of this cost, which can run in the thousands. WFRD ambulance trips come with a bill, too, ranging from about $500 to $900 for residents.) When patients call 911 for an ambulance, they will be taken directly to the hospital which can best treat them. Ambulance crews are directed by hospital doctors as to where to go.

Hill is worried that injured or sick people will decide to skip the ambulance altogether by driving themselves to the hospital when they’re in no shape to do so.

“Don’t be afraid to call 911. The most disturbing stories I’ve heard were of people that needed help and didn’t want to call the ambulance because they weren’t sure what was going to happen,” Hill said. “We, Woodstock Fire/Rescue District, are going to take care of you. We’re going to get you to the correct hospital and get you the treatment you need.” 

thanks Dan

Tags: , ,

New ambulance and Battalion Chief unit for the Woodstock Fire/Rescue District

This from Brendan Parker:

Here are pictures of our new shift commander vehicle (Battalion 4) out of station 1 and new ambulance out of Station 2 (Ambulance 452).

Captain Brendan Parker

Woodstock Fire/Rescue District

Woodstock Fire/Rescue District Battalion 4

Woodstock Fire/Rescue District Battalion 4. Brendan Parker

Woodstock Fire/Rescue DistrictAmbulance 452

Woodstock Fire/Rescue DistrictAmbulance 452. Brendan Parker

Tags: , , , ,

Woodstock Fire/Rescue Department news

Excerpts from the

Ten emergency dispatchers with more than 125 years of combined experience were honored by the city of Woodstock April 18, several weeks before the Woodstock Police Department’s telecommunications division closes.

The WPD’s emergency dispatch center will end operations May 1 when it becomes part of the Northeast Regional Communications Center, or NERCOM. Calls to 911 from Woodstock will be routed through NERCOM, based in McHenry.

“There have been so many unsung heroes that have been a part of the Woodstock PD communications center,” Police Chief John Lieb said during a ceremony at a Woodstock City Council meeting.

The change comes in response to a mandate from the state of Illinois, which ordered McHenry County’s six emergency dispatch centers be combined into three as part of a push to consolidate government services.

Amy McKendry would have celebrated her 16th year as a dispatcher with the department in July. She said working in Woodstock gave her an advantage when dealing with emergency calls. Grant Havens will be joining McKendry at the new dispatch center.

In the long run, joining NERCOM is expected to save money for the city of Woodstock and most of the other jurisdictions that consolidate.

In 2016, the city spent about $773,000 on dispatch center operations, with the Woodstock Fire/Rescue District kicking in an additional $84,000 for handling its calls. Yearly expenditures for the city are expected to drop to about $500,000 once NERCOM is up and running, according to city council documents, but it will be more expensive in its first year — the city expects to pay an extra $100,000 on things such as new equipment and employee severance.

For WFRD, NERCOM will cost more. The fire district will pay about $120,000 annually for its services, an increase of $36,000 a year. Woodstock will cover WFRD’s added expenses for the first five years of the deal.

Tags: , , , ,

Woodstock Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

A Woodstock man woke up at 3 a.m. and took his dog for a walk. Fire chief Michael Hill doesn’t know the man’s name, but said he may be responsible for saving about 50 people from a massive fire at the 32-unit Willow Brooke Apartments complex in Woodstock.

After letting out his dog, he saw the smoke and called 911 to alert report that a building was on fire and then he entered the building and started knocking on doors and alerting residents to leave,” Hill said. “I wish I had his name.”

Crews from the Woodstock Fire/Rescue District responded and called for mutual aid from surrounding fire departments. About 60 to 70 firefighters responded to 2105 Willow Brooke Drive about 3:15 a.m. The origin seems to have been on a balcony, and the fire went up to the roof line, where the top of the two-story building was engulfed.

“Both in the warning to get the fire department on the way and also the warning of people—it took quite a while until smoke detectors were activated—those residents would not have been alerted if it were not for that gentleman,” Hill said.

Even with the man’s warning, firefighters and the Woodstock Police Department had to rescue people from two balconies and make one rescue from inside the building.

Hill said the fire was one of the tougher ones he remembers because there was no vehicle access to the back of the building.

Where firefighters might have encountered fire in the attic space between the residents’ ceilings and the roof, they instead found plywood nearly an inch thick, giving the fire ample space to burn where firefighters couldn’t get water on it directly. It took about 90 minutes to get the blaze under control.

“Apparently they had put a second roof over the top of the other, because the first roof was leaking, creating a void space between which is where the fire got into, making it virtually impossible for us to access it,” Hill said.

The American Red Cross provided lodging to 43 people from 32 units and brought in breakfast and lunch for the residents and for emergency crews. Firefighters were at the location through Saturday afternoon.

thanks Dan

Tags: , ,