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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

DeKalb makes way for 4th fire station

Rachel Cormier
Firefighters from the DeKalb Fire Department take out tools from their fire engines with the sign “#ProudlyDeKalb” displayed on the engine’s ladder. A fourth fire station is expected for the City of DeKalb. (Rachel Cormier | Northern Star)

DeKALB The building of a fourth fire station in DeKalb is in motion with plans to potentially break ground by spring 2024.

Collaborations between the DeKalb City Council and the DeKalb Fire Department have gone into the timely approval of a fourth station to be built in the southwest quadrant of the city at 1130 S. Malta Road since discussions were proposed in July.

“We haven’t had a station in progress like this since 1993, 1994,” Fire Chief Mike Thomas said, referencing the last station, Fire Station No. 3, that was built in 1994.

The city agreed to create a 15-year municipal bond to fund the estimated $4 million station, with funding for the loan coming out of the city’s General Fund and staffing pay to come out of the city’s Ground Emergency Medical Transportation fund.

The new satellite fire station would have three garage bays and living facilities for firefighters waiting on standby.

New auditory technology would also be equipped that would dampen the sound on emergency vehicles to be adaptive to its neighboring community, without diminishing its emergency use.

The new auditory features will also be equipped at other DeKalb fire stations as well.

DeKalb city leaders recently signed a $286,125 contract with Chicago architectural firm Studio 222 Architects, a firm with a background in designing fire stations and public facilities, which will begin designing plans so construction bidding can begin in the spring.

“We asked the City Council for support to enter into a contract with this architect, so we’re hoping to have a bidding plan from the architectural firm in probably three months,” Thomas said.

City Manager Bill Nicklas said that plans to expand have been in the works for years, but the dramatic shift in emergency calls in the southwest area impacted the city’s choice to push for the station’s approval in the coming year.

“The spike in the direction of longer response times has been most dramatic just in the last five years because we’re getting more and more demand for emergency services,” Nicklas said.

The DFD works with a 4-minute coverage model, which is considered the maximum time for emergency units to be on route to an emergency incident and arrive at the scene.

“We’re averaging six minutes to that quadrant, so now we’re getting to the point where a couple of things are concerning, very concerning,” Nicklas said.

In addition to response times, a progressing increase in emergency calls from 2017 added to the necessary coverage of a fourth station. 

A total of 5,572 emergency calls were reported in 2017, which included both EMS and fire calls. By 2022, the number of EMS calls saw a 33% increase with a total of 7,437 reported calls, with a majority of the calls coming from the Annie Glidden neighborhood, according to city documents.

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