Glenview Fire Station 13 will remain in operation after village trustees gave Fire Chief Tony DeRose and Village Manager Matt Formica direction to change course and operate the fire department with a five-station footprint at a special village board meeting Monday.
The change came after a crowd of about 300 rallied in front of the fire station on Lake Avenue near Wagner Road last Saturday, yard signs saying “Save Fire Station 13” began cropping up all over town (especially on Glenview’s east side) and more than 50 people called into Monday’s Zoom-based village board meeting.
Residents, mostly from the east side, and firefighters not only from Glenview but other communities, called into the meeting, many with heartfelt personal stories of calling 911 and having firefighters respond to medical emergencies and even house fires.
Several residents living near Station 13 pleading for the station to remain open recounted how they called 911 and could hear the sirens blaring as crews left the station before they got off the phone.
After the public comment period, village trustees agreed to move forward with a five-station plan. Village Trustee Mike Jenny suggested exploring the use of cross staffing, also called “jump companies” even village-wide. Other trustees expressed support for the increased use of jump companies.
Jump companies have one crew of firefighters assigned to respond with either an ambulance or an engine depending on the type of call.
“I was excited the people of the town spoke to their elected representatives, that was great,” Glenview Professional Firefighters Association Local 4186 Union President Jesse Gallagher told the Journal Tuesday morning. He said he hopes future decision-making would better involve village employees and members of the public.
Many callers were critical of what they said was a lack of transparency in making such an important decision.
Village President Jim Patterson said the decision made on closing Station 13 at the Tuesday, Feb. 2 meeting could be made without village board approval as it was an operational decision, but said the issue was posted on that board meeting’s agenda. The issue was posted as a discussion of a consultant’s report on fire department operations. Trustees acknowledged shortcomings in the area of transparency and communication on the issue.
Trustees, including Jenny, who is the only candidate running for village president in next month’s municipal election, said the issue saw, “A great public response.”
He said, “While it is our job to make decisions based on data and expert opinions, we believe are in the best interests of the entire community, our job is also about representing you and that means listening and hearing your concerns. I need to recognize that, in my opinion, we have fallen short of where we need to be as a board. We need to get better at finding new and enhanced ways to make sure everybody feels heard, their perspectives have been heard, understood, and acknowledged, this includes with residents and key stakeholder groups such as our first responders and other staff.”
Jenny said he would make better transparency and community engagement a key part of his work in the coming four years as village president.
Other trustees also apologized saying the village could have done a better job listening to the public and engaging them sooner in the process.
On the expanded use of jump companies, Gallagher said he had concerns. Most Glenview firefighters are also certified paramedics, but Gallagher said how fire crews gear up to respond to a fire or medical call are different.
“The challenge is the next call,” Gallagher said. “What we leave with is what we have. We often go straight from one call to another.” He said when a first call is a medical call and the second is a structure fire, that can create difficulties. He said paramedics would bring fire turnout gear with them on an ambulance run, but would not return to the station to swap vehicles.
As discussed in the meeting, the upside to jump companies is, with Station 13 only equipped with an advanced life support fire engine, firefighters can only treat and stabilize a patient, but are not able to transport them without an ambulance.