Dixon Rural, City Council agree to discuss fire services’ futures

Citing earlier studies, Dixon mayor pitches talks about coordination, cooperation

Dixon Rural Fire Protection District

DIXON – Dixon Rural Fire Department’s leadership has agreed it is open to discussing how that department and the city’s fire department can create more effective, cooperative and coordinated services with the goal of reducing response times and increasing citizen and firefighter safety.

Dixon Mayor Glen Hughes two weeks ago sent a letter to the Community Fire Protection District of Lee and Ogle Counties asking to revisit recommendations for probable improvement in several areas and the possibility of consolidating the two departments.

Speaking at Dixon Rural Fire Department’s Palmyra Road fire station on Tuesday, Hughes addressed the Dixon Rural Fire Protection District’s board and a room full of firefighters to reiterate the letter’s contents and request the three-member board meet with three Dixon City Council members to begin talks.

“I just wanted to make a formal request that we start taking that opportunity to look at those issues both in the studies and, more importantly, looking at what we can do in terms of expanding or improving cooperation and coordination of services,” he said.

Hughes has said that because Dixon Rural Fire Chief Sid Aurand’s retirement is planned for the end of year, he decided it was appropriate to thoroughly read two earlier studies carried out by independent experts. He reviewed those two studies – the McGarth Study of 2008 and the WRB assessment report from 2017 – as well as a 2011 intergovernmental agreement based in part on the McGarth Study.

The intergovernmental agreement, he said, encouraged representatives of the departments, the city and the fire district to meet annually, and more often as desirable, to review, discuss and implement, as appropriate, joint training activities; an annual review of equipment purchases; operational cooperation to provide the fastest response with appropriate staffing and equipment; mutual aid agreements; standard operating procedures; and other matters of mutual interest.

“I know that the studies talked about consolidation, talked about sharing our staff whether that be training or fire prevention staff, those options may be among those we look at,” he said. “But whatever happens, I’m most focused on what we can do to better coordinate and cooperate on the safety issues, response time, looking probably mostly at working on that training or standard operating procedures. ... Whether you’re the lead or whether we’re the lead, we go to a fire incident, everybody knows what’s expected.”

Hughes said he knows the chiefs have done some work and that there has been an expansion in mutual aid and joint training.

“But there may be a whole ream of things that we can continue to look at going forward and whether that’s on the operational side or whether it’s on the functional side, those opportunities are out there,” he said.

Hughes then asked to set up a framework of the issues to address and requested that talks begin.

Brian Mayer of Dixon Rural Fire Protection District’s board said those board members will work to create Dixon Rural’s list of items to address and could have it ready after the board’s meeting next month. Hughes said he also would be checking to find a third-party facilitator to guide the discussions.

Charlene Bielema

Charlene Bielema

Charlene Bielema is the editor of Sauk Valley Media.