Glen Ellyn Volunteer Fire Co. Seeks Alliance with 4 Area Departments

To expedite responses to fire and emergency calls and operate during lean times, the Glen Ellyn Volunteer Fire Company is hoping to join a local alliance of four area fire departments.

If things go smoothly, the could join an intergovernmental agency charged with responding to fire and medical emergencies by as early as next month.

The West Suburban Fire/Rescue Alliance began operating in February and is comprised of the Wheaton, Winfield, West Chicago and Carol Stream fire departments. Glen Ellyn’s fire company may join the ranks to help streamline response and standardize training allowing for optimal responses to fires and other emergencies.

During its work session, the Village of Glen Ellyn Board of Trustees learned more about the alliance and how it benefits the communities involved, as well as reasons the Glen Ellyn Volunteer Fire Co. should consider joining. 

Unlike the other communities that comprise the alliance, the Glen Ellyn force is an all-volunteer department. Even so, that would be about the only difference should the department ally with the intergovernmental organization, Glen Ellyn Volunteer Fire Co. Chief Pete Campbell said. 

"Work together cohesively"

Chief Gregory Berk of the Wheaton Fire Department told the trustees that the alliance’s members began meeting in 2010 to discuss major issues, including the economy. The chiefs from the four departments, who are now aligned, were concerned about the impact of the economy on funding for departments and coming together they hoped to pool their resources.

“We started talking about standard of coverage issues if the economy didn’t turn around,” Berk said. “We discussed how we could work together cohesively.”

The departments created standard operating procedures to address every aspect of responding to a call from what to do once on scene to how the shift commanders would handle the response of arriving fire companies. All parties involved would be trained to respond in the same manner using a similar language and protocol.

With the implementation of the new alliance, the fire departments also began responding to incidents using a computer aided dispatch program. The four fire departments offered to test out the system, which dispatches based on location and response to other calls. 

John Ferraro of DuPage Public Safety Communications (DU-COMM) said the organization dispatches 21 different fire agencies. 

“We are very excited about what this alliance is doing. For years we have been looking for standardization of communication,” Ferraro said. “The larger it (DU-COMM) gets the more difficult it becomes to not make mistakes.” 

DU-COMM began exploring how to program the computer aided dispatch system to work better for agencies, he said. 

“The alliance said we are ready to try it out, do what you need to, try it out and see if this will work,” Ferraro said.

The dispatch system is a way of recommending units and can tell who is due to respond to a call. The dispatcher then has a recommend protocol to follow when dispatching units, he said. This system has worked extremely well since being implemented on Feb. 27. It’s worked so well that DU-COMM has added Wood Dale, Oak Brook and Itasca to use the dispatch system.

If Glen Ellyn’s volunteer company joined in with the alliance, it would begin to follow the same protocols and training as the other departments and would be dispatched through the new system, Campbell said. The training is already underway.

Campbell wants to see the department join the alliance by September.

"Working on the same page"

Trustee Diane McGinley asked why the issue was being brought to the board since the volunteer fire company is a nonprofit and not directly under the village’s purview.

Village Manager Mark Franz explained that Glen Ellyn has had a close working relationship with the fire company over the years and in the next few months, the village would be formalizing the relationship with an intergovernmental agreement between the two entities.

The village’s attorney said that with the fire company providing fire protection for the community, it was appropriate for the village to move forward and support the alliance. An intergovernmental agreement would need to be created between the Glen Ellyn Volunteer Fire Co. and the West Suburban Fire/Rescue Alliance.

The trustees asked Campbell why he supported joining the alliance.

“I’m a firm believer in training, safety and being unified so nobody gets hurt,” he said. “I’ve been attending these meetings monthly for over a year and there hasn’t been anything coming out of this group that tells me any different. We would be working on the same page and when we have an incident, we won’t have to worry about it. These guys come to work, do their job and everybody goes home safe. … This structure is a concept I believe in.”

McGinley asked if all of the volunteers were on board and Campbell said not all of the volunteer firefighters were in agreement on joining the alliance. He said he didn’t know why they weren’t in agreement. 

“From a volunteer perspective, when we are training with this group and doing multijurisdictional training, some people don’t want to do the work,” Campbell said, adding it was for the betterment of the department and for safety.

Trustee Carl Henninger said he welcomed comments from volunteers who might not be in favor of the alliance and hoped they would share their concerns. 

The board did not take any action. A resolution supporting the alliance, which appeared on the board’s consent agenda, was removed and tabled until a later date.


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