DeKalb Fire Department is understaffed


Firefighters leave a house at 414 Prospect St. in DeKalb Tuesday morning after battling a structure fire.

By Meaghen Harms

DeKALB | The DeKalb Fire Department is one of the least staffed fire departments of any university community in Illinois.

This is according to Fire Chief Bruce Harrison who said the department is currently under a staffing shortage.

The three fire stations have 58 sworn employees and two civilian employees, according to the city of DeKalb’s website.

“We have eight less personnel than we would like to have,” Harrison said.

The fire department is able to continue to provide the necessary services to the community despite the personnel shortage, Harrison said.

“We have adequate personnel and are not jeopardizing the safety of the community,” said DeKalb Mayor Kris Povlsen.

Off-duty personnel have to come in if there are more calls than the on-duty personnel can respond to in time.

“Staffing becomes of a critical nature when we have simultaneous calls,” Harrison said.

Simultaneous calls are when personnel are tied up with a bigger event and additional calls continue to come in, Harrison said.

Off-duty personnel are recalled at that time as well as assistance from other area fire departments.

Povlsen said the city council has discussed the issue of understaffing at the fire department, but do not have the resources to hire more personnel.

“As revenues increase we would like to be able to increase both police and fire staff,” Povlsen said.

The fire department uses a policy of attrition, said City Manager Mark Biernacki. When a person retires or leaves service they are not replaced.

“The city has had a hiring freeze for about a year,” Povlsen said.

“We evaluate if they need to be replaced or how we can restructure.”

The city laid off three firefighters about two years ago, Povlsen said. The city is using the policy of attrition instead of laying off personnel since the hiring freeze began. Povlsen said that exceptions can be made if it is deemed necessary that the person leaving should be replaced.

The fire department responded to 7,463 emergencies in 2010, according to the city of Dekalb’s website. The emergencies included 3,129 fire responses and 4,334 medical emergencies.