Five Fox Valley Fire Departments Explore Ways to Improve Collaboration

APPLETON – Five Fox Valley Fire Departments are examining ways to strengthen their collaboration with each other to meet the increased demand for services amid budget constraints and a tight labor market.

Appleton, Oshkosh, Neenah-Menasha, Grand Chute and Kaukauna fire departments recently hired the Wisconsin Policy Forum explore opportunities for regional cooperation.

The cost of $14,300 was split equally between the departments.

“We worked together to have a report on how we could work together better,” Appleton Fire Chief Jeremy Hansen told The Post-Crescent.

The study analyzed five areas: training, special operations, community risk reduction, fleet maintenance and emergency medical services.

He found potential for further cooperation, such as the establishment of a regional office for training or a regional office for fire investigations, but said such measures would focus on improving the quality of service rather than reducing expenses.

With regional offices, “there would be an additional cost because creating shared regional positions would not allow departments to eliminate existing positions in most cases,” the Wisconsin Policy Forum said in its report.

The study also addressed the possibility of “thinking big” by creating a Fox Valley Fire Resource Office to regionalize support and specialist services provided by departments.

Kevin Kloehn

Neenah-Menasha Fire Chief Kevin Kloehn is one of those taking the “think big” approach. He said the study lays the groundwork for further cooperation that could lead to consolidation.

“I think the best way to serve the people of the valley, at some point in the future, would be to have some type of subway service,” Kloehn said. “I just believe in that. Do we need 10 fire chiefs in the valley? I think it’s ineffective.”

Kloehn has experience with consolidating the Neenah and Menasha fire departments, which are approaching their 20th anniversary.

Hansen, too, thinks there is merit in a regional fire department, noting the automatic and mutual aid agreements that are already in place. He said state legislation was needed to allow for the creation of a fire district with taxing powers in multiple jurisdictions.

Oshkosh Fire Chief Mike Stanley said full consolidation warrants further long-term evaluation, but he said the next step would be to pick the fruits within reach – the easier options. , the fastest and most sensible to implement.

The purpose of the study, he said, was to learn how to “work smarter, not harder, to be more efficient.”

The Wisconsin Policy Forum did not make recommendations for the five departments. On the contrary, he said the study was designed “to present a range of potential options and to provide sufficient analysis that will enable decision-makers to determine which (if any) should be considered for study and implementation.” more detailed”.

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Each of the five departments has a designated training officer who manages training activities within their department. The cost for all departments is $670,000 per year.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum has found opportunities to improve collaboration by dividing responsibility for training specialties among existing training officers.

He also modeled the creation of a seven-person regional training office.

“Although the cost of nearly $905,000 seems like a steep price tag, a substantial portion of the current $670,000 expense could potentially be eliminated,” the report said.

Oshkosh, Neenah-Menasha and Grand Chute are already working together to train new recruits.

Special operations

All five departments are trained to perform special operations, including hazardous materials response and technical rescues (water and ice, confined space, trench, structure collapse, etc.).

The study indicates that departments could explore mutual or automatic aid arrangements for particular special operations. They could also explore the sharing of equipment, personnel, training and resources.

“Each department could be the designated response team for one or two types of special operations while receiving services from other departments for the rest,” the report said.

Appleton could take the lead in confined space rescues and structural collapses, for example, and Neenah-Menasha could take the lead in water and ice rescues.

Members of Neenah-Menasha Fire Rescue conduct water rescue scuba training on Lake Winnebago in Neenah.

Community risk reduction

Community-based risk reduction activities include fire code inspections and enforcement, fire investigations, and public education on fire safety, water safety, CPR, fall prevention for elderly, proper installation of car seats, etc.

Since many of the inspection and training activities are carried out by firefighters during their regular shifts, these tasks would logically remain the responsibility of the various departments, even under the new sharing agreements.

“However, fire investigations are a logical function to consider for regional collaboration given that investigations are relatively infrequent and require specialized personnel,” the report said.

Fleet maintenance

Appleton, Oshkosh and Grand Chute have all reported that their municipal garages have reached capacity to meet fire vehicle maintenance needs.

Options include creating a shared fire maintenance garage or expanding Neenah-Menasha Fire Rescue’s ability to handle fleet maintenance for other departments.

“We chose NMFR because it is the only department that currently appears to have such capability,” the report said.

Emergency medical services

All five departments provide emergency medical services, but only Oshkosh, Grand Chute, and Kaukauna offer a paramedic level of service.

Additionally, only Oshkosh and Kaukauna provide medical transportation from the site of an incident to a hospital. In Appleton, Neenah-Menasha and Grand Chute, transportation is provided by Gold Cross Ambulance.

Differences in service levels make collaboration less practical, but the study found opportunities for “a common set of EMS protocols that could help lay the foundation for a regional EMS system.”

Firefighters extinguish a fire at the corner of West Washington and North Appleton streets in downtown Appleton.

Firefighters at a glance

Appleton Fire Department

  • Population served: 75,644
  • Number of positions: 6
  • Employees: 96
  • Ambulance transport: no
  • 2021 expenses: $13.3 million
  • 2021 fire calls: 1,661
  • Medical calls 2021: 5,180
  • Total calls 2021: 6,841
  • Average calls per day in 2021: 18.7

Oshkosh Fire Department

  • Service population: 66,083 (fire); 92,522 (medical)
  • Number of positions: 6
  • Employees: 114
  • Ambulance transport: yes
  • 2021 expenses: $13.7 million
  • Fire calls 2021: 1,430
  • Medical calls 2021: 8,121
  • Total calls 2021: 9,551
  • Average calls per day in 2021: 26.2

Neenah-Menasha Fire Department

  • Population served: 44,702
  • Number of positions: 4
  • Employees: 68
  • Ambulance transport: no
  • 2021 expenses: $8.8 million
  • Fire calls 2021: 898
  • Medical calls 2021: 2,073
  • Total calls 2021: 2,971
  • Average calls per day in 2021: 8.1

Grand Chute Fire Department

  • Population served: 23,495
  • Number of positions: 2
  • Employees: 39
  • Ambulance transport: no
  • 2021 expenses: $4.4 million
  • Fire calls 2021: 690
  • Medical calls 2021: 1,820
  • Total calls 2021: 2,510
  • Average calls per day in 2021: 6.9

Kaukauna Fire Department

  • Service population: 17,089 (fire); 27,910 (medical)
  • Number of positions: 1
  • Employees: 21
  • Ambulance transport: yes
  • 2021 expenses: $2.7 million
  • Fire calls 2021: 197
  • Medical calls 2021: 1,361
  • Total calls 2021: 1,558
  • Average calls per day in 2021: 4.3

Source: Wisconsin Policy Forum Report 2022

Kaukuana firefighters spray water through a hole they dug in the roof of a building on West 10th Street.

Contact Duke Behnke at 920-993-7176 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @DukeBehnke.

Lillian L. Pena