Volunteers propose 24-hour firefighting shifts in Sun Prairie

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UPDATED: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 --- 11:15 p.m.
Reporter: Phil Levin

The Sun Prairie Volunteer Fire Department proposed staffing stations around the clock for the first time in its 122 years of history Tuesday.

The group has just four full-time staff and nobody working after business hours. During late fire calls volunteers are currently called in.

Earlier this month the city council voted to end its contract with the volunteer firefighters at the end of the year, citing the need for faster response times.

"We're a community of 30,000 people, and we're not a small community," said Mayor John Murray. "It is becoming increasingly difficult for them to get down to the station, get a truck out the door, and get to a fire scene to save lives and property."

Murray wants four firefighters at one of the stations at all times. He suggests filling the positions with "paid on premise" staffers, which he says would likely be firefighters looking for additional training willing to work for an hourly stipend and no benefits.

The 2013 Sun Prairie budget shows $406,456 budgeted for the fire department. The city estimates 24-hour staffing as Murray describes would cost about $400,000 more, nearly doubling fire expenses in the city's $25 million annual budget.

On Tuesday, the volunteers proposed their own around-the-clock staffing plan, suggesting a restructured department with 13 full-time workers with benefits and 50 volunteers.

The Sun Prairie Volunteer Fire Department's Cory Barr said the volunteers propose three rotating, 24-hour fire shifts of four people. Additional volunteers would be on call for bigger fires. He stressed the combined 375 years of experience in the current volunteer staff.

The volunteers would not present the cost of their proposal to the public, saving those details for negotiations with the city.

Even if the city does not act and ends it contract with the volunteers, Murray says it is likely too late to get a new program in place by the end of the year. City staff met in closed session Tuesday to discuss possible negotiations with the volunteers to extend their coverage temporarily.

Given their experience and knowledge of the city, Murray tells NBC 15 the volunteers would likely make strong applicants in a city-run department.


POSTED July 2, 2013 --- 10:50pm
Reporter: Kristin Mazur

There was a heated debate in Sun Prairie, Tuesday night.

The city council approved a plan for a city-run fire department. It will replace the city's agreement with the Sun Prairie Volunteer Fire Department.

The city has had an arrangement with the volunteer department for 122 years.

Under the approved plan, city fire and EMS will be combined.

Sun Prairie Mayor John Murray says the new department will shorten response times.

But, Fire Chief Tory Strauss is concerned about the future of four current paid positions at the volunteer fire department. Under the new plan, he says those positions don't fit in anywhere

The city's current agreement with the volunteer fire department ends on December 31st of this year. So, the new plan would take effect January 1, 2014.

As far as what this means for taxpayers, an increase is certain, but by how much is not yet set.

The city does plan to apply for a federal grant for helping paying for the new department. But, it'll be another month before the city finds out if that money is awarded to Sun Prairie.

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