Imagine this: 7 Village Presidents, 49 Trustees, 7 Village Managers and 1 Fire Chief. Try developing a consensus with that many people!
The North Shore Fire Department was organized throughout the years 1992-1994. It was the hard work of many dedicated community leaders, staff and citizenry looking for a way to improve and share services. Over this period of time, there were countless meetings, questions, concerns and worries. Many cookies were served and eaten at those meetings...and there were times when it was felt that the snacks were the reason everyone was there!
An objective look at the fire service delivery systems in the North Shore showed that duplicative waste existed to an extreme. There were three career fire departments, two conbination career/paid-on-call, and two volunteer departments serving a total area of less than 30 square miles.
Each of our municipalities was proud of its fire department. Each wanted to provide a level of service dictated by the users, each had a strong sense of identity, valued their role and wanted to control their situation and destiny. They each had pride of ownership and accomplishment and each fire chief was proud of his part in the community fire service system, which in most cases, the Chief helped develop.
There are seven communities comprising the North Shore Fire Department: Bayside, Brown Deer, Fox Point, Glendale, River Hills, Shorewood and Whitefish Bay. Each community is unique and operated under different forms of fire service. Five of the seven had paid union fire fighters; two operated under the public safety concept, i.e. the police, supplemented by on-call fire fighters. Geographically, the North Shore is 25 square miles of land with 68,000 residents. Five of the seven had public water; two did not and still don't.
The makeup of the seven departments consisted of: 41 pieces of fire apparatus, 15 pumpers, 4 ladders, 8 ambulances, 4 tankers, 4 utility trucks and 6 cars. Many of these competing departments used equipment that was not consistent with one another, such as 4" hoses in one village and 5" hoses in another. Operating philosophies also were not consistent, such as level of training, use of accepted standards and general operations. The classic example of competing with one another was the firefighters' identification system. One department used ID cards, another department used cow tags and still another used a third form.
Today, the North Shore Fire Department has a rolling stock of 31 fire apparatus, versus the 41 from the prior departments. We have 8 pumpers, 3 ladders, 6 ambulances, 3 tankers, 4 utilities and 7 cars.
The effects of consolidation on the NSFD have been unified command, training, operational philosophy, equipment procedures, rules and regulations, legal services, Commission recruitment, vehicle maintenance and fire codes.