Winfield fire district seeking voter support to hire more people
The Winfield Fire Protection District wants to staff a long-vacant firehouse to improve response times south of the train tracks that divide its coverage area.
But to achieve that goal, the district needs to hire six firefighters -- something officials say they can't afford without a property tax increase.
So on March 15, the district will ask voters in the primary election to approve a tax increase to raise roughly $650,000 to hire and train six full-time firefighters.
"We're just trying to provide better service," Deputy Chief Bryan Lewis said Thursday.
If the increase is approved, the owner of a $300,000 house would pay about $122 more in annual property taxes to the district.
The increase also would allow the district to always have a two-person paramedic unit assigned to the fire station along Winfield Road, just north of Roosevelt Road.
"We're not asking for anything else," Lewis said. "This is strictly to open up a fire station south of the tracks."
The district includes nearly all of Winfield, as well as unincorporated sections near West Chicago, Wheaton, Carol Stream and Warrenville.
While Winfield has two firehouses, only the station on the north side of the tracks is staffed.
"So when we get a call south of the tracks, a lot of times we're getting stopped by trains," Lewis said.
As a result, response times on the south end of the district average 8 minutes and 27 seconds -- a number district officials say is unacceptable.
Lewis said the district's average response time north of the tracks is 4 minutes and 55 seconds.
In the meantime, the district is handling a growing number of emergency calls.
"Our volume is increasing at a pretty good rate," Lewis said, climbing from 1,669 in 2014 to 1,805 last year. Roughly 30 percent of such calls are for locations south of the tracks.
The station south of the tracks opened in 1983 and was used when the district still had volunteer firefighters.
"When a call came in, all the volunteers who lived south of the tracks would respond to that station," Lewis said. "They essentially did what we're trying to do now -- get fire and medics on that side of the railroad tracks."
Once the district was fully staffed by professional firefighters, it stopped using Station No. 2 to respond to emergency calls.
The district has asked for additional money for staffing several times, most recently in February 2008, but voters have rejected each request.