MENOMONEE FALLS, Wisc. — The Menomonee Falls Fire Department will close one of its four stations next month and increase staff at its other locations.
Fire Chief Gerard Washington presented the plan to the Village Board on Monday night. Starting April 1, station two on Silver Spring Drive will be "browned out" or closed. They will keep the engine and ambulance there. The staff will go to the other stations.
Chief Washington said he spent a lot of time looking into the data and talking to his staff and other fire departments. He said data shows the busiest stations are stations one and three, and this plan will allow them to staff those up. He wants to make clear they are not getting rid of any firefighters—instead they are trying to hire many more.
Last year the department closed station four.
"Will response times change a little bit? Of course they will. We're going from five stations to three. But having the numbers that we're looking to have in each station, the force that we'll be able to mitigate those situations is increased dramatically," Chief Washington said.
"His message was loud and clear. There will be no compromise whatsoever in the safety of our community," Village President David Glasgow.
Glasgow pointed out Brookfield has three fire stations and a similar population size. He also pointed out a station can reopen if needed.
Chief Washington said the department responded to about 5,100 calls in 2021, which is about 400 more than in 2020. He says they have six openings.
Chief Washington is applying to the SAFER program, a federal grant which he hopes will allow him to hire 14 more firefighters in early 2023, which would bring the full-time staff up to 36. That would allow the department to meet the National Fire Protection Association Standard of 15 firefighters on scene.
Chief says they have more than 60 part-time workers and want to boost that to at least 80.
Kevin Myers is the president of Local 3879, the Professional Firefighters of Menomonee Falls. He says in general firefighters do not support closing stations. He says staffing up is key.
"If you're in the area around station two or station four, which was closed last year, you will see a longer response," Myers said. "That being said, enough thought was put into the plan that we are making sure that at least the right number of firefighters show up, which in years past we have not been able to guarantee."