All content, of both the original and this blog, is written from my point of view and is my opinion. I believe it to be accurate at the time it is written. ~ Kyle Prast, Brookfield resident since 1986

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Field Trip: Town of Brookfield Fire House--it's not like Mayberry RFD (+Clarification)

Monday morning I joined Alderman Jerry Mellone and 5 other Brookfield residents for a tour of the Town’s fire house. For some reason, I was expecting something more akin to fire service straight from Mayberry RFD than what I saw. The Town Center, newly remodeled in 1990, looked to me to be a modern facility.

Rightly or wrongly applied, I have associated the terms/impressions floating around our city of part-time, volunteer, not professional, etc. with the fire service of the Town. After speaking with their fire chief, Andy Smerz, I think I now have a better understanding of how their system works.

The Town of Brookfield has a fully staffed, 24/7, fire crew on duty at all times. It is not the volunteer fire service that say, Elm Grove or New Berlin has, where they send out the call and the fire fighters drop what they are doing to answer. (That system does work too.)

The Town always has 5 fire fighters on duty: Engine officer, heavy equipment officer, and fire fighter on the engine and 2 paramedics in the ambulance. There are 5 on duty, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. They work 10 hour and 14 hour shifts.

The part-time description really describes the amount of days each individual fighter works per month. This part time status saves the Town money in that they do not pay for health insurance. The firefighters work in some other community, I presume, where they do receive health insurance, or they pay for it on their own—possibly funding it by picking up a few extra shifts a month at the Town.

The Town has a pool of 40 fire fighters. Of that 40, 20 are paramedics. 50% of the 40 have been there 10 years. 7 or 8 of the paramedics use the Town as their full time job. Full time pay for paramedics is $40,000/year. The Town has a 7-9 year turnover; no one has left during the past year. The Town recently hired a fire chief last Aug. All firefighters are both firefighters and EMT. The EMT paramedics are also firefighters. The Fire Chief stressed that his paramedics were trained by our fire department.

The Town always has 2 EMS trucks ready to go. If the engine and EMS is out on a long call, then they send out a call back to get in a 2nd crew. The chief said this takes about 5 minutes. This is the same method our city uses.*Clarification: This statement could be misleading. Our city, as most departments I would think, do rely at times on the all call or call back to call in extra personnel to report for duty, should they need more staff. In the City of Brookfield though, each of our 3 fire stations has 1 fully manned EMS truck, ready to go out, at all times. If a 2nd EMS call comes in, the City just sends one out from another station, without the 5 or so minute lag that the Town would have.

  • 1 Instant Response: a big Chevy quad cab truck with covered bed. Captain Andy uses this vehicle (it can be used by the paramedics too).

  • 2 Paramedic Transport units (big ambulances). With the all call or call back they could get 6 total paramedics on duty.

  • 2 engines—each hold 1,000 gallons of water and contain everything needed to fight a fire. With the all call, they can get another crew of 3 in 5 minutes.

  • 1 ladder truck—95’ ladder tower with pre-piped waterway. This truck goes out a lot on mutual aid calls on the 1st. call.

  • Their equipment utilizes “Opticom” to control the traffic lights.

The Town’s response time average is 4 minutes, that would lower to 3 minutes if the Capitol Drive area were eliminated. 20% of their calls are on Blue Mound and 20% are for I-94. They have about 1,100 calls a year, of which 80% are EMS.

Their facility seemed adequate:

  • Large kitchen area for food prep and eating, some office work, and conference table. This is scheduled for remodeling soon.

  • Training room

  • Woman’s bathroom/shower—they currently have 3 women firefighters

  • Men’s bathroom/shower

  • office

  • Down room—a large room with 6 beds in it. (Yes, they all sleep in the same room—it is hardly like the women are sporting nightwear from Victoria’s Secret! The chief told us this combined space is pretty standard.)

Most of us remember the shooting at the Sheraton Hotel on Moorland a few years ago. The Town paramedics were called to lend mutual aid and took one victim to the hospital. The fire chief stressed that although relations between the City and Town have been strained, the cooperation and respect between the fire departments is very good. These firefighters must rely on each other all the time; they depend on each other for mutual aid. They know that no community could possibly afford all the fire/ems equipment and personnel that is needed for every scenario. By cooperating, they are able to meet the needs in a more cost effective manner.

Coming next: A few thoughts from Tuesday’s Common Council meeting


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