Always answering the bell

Some work has begun on the renovations and addition to the public safety building in DeForest. The DeForest Windsor Fire and EMS answered a record number of calls last year and is working on staff recruitment issues and having proper housing for the overnight staff.

The DeForest Village Board recently approved bids for renovations and expansion of the DeForest Windsor Fire and EMS space in the public safety building.

As the communities continue to grow, the need for more space and personnel to staff both the fire and EMS teams remains a need.

Department Chief Steve LaFeber gave the Windsor Village Board an update with the annual report presentation two nights after DeForest approved the bids. The villages split the costs, which is currently at a 58-42 ratio.

The bids came in higher than anticipated as factors like a builder’s market and material cost inflation were the biggest reasons for the higher price tag. Joe Daniels Construction was awarded the $1,787,000 bid.

“It’s just the world we live in today,” DeForest public services director Judd Blau told the board.

Blau said the village is working with the contractor to work on any possible areas of savings. Both villages have options in their budgets to absorb the cost hit.

The village boards moved ahead with the project, with hopes of completion this year, because of space issues at the station. The DeForest Windsor Fire and EMS is a combination of full and part-time staff along with paid on-call members from the community. As more staff are staged at the station, offices have been converted into additional very tight living quarters.

“This is something we need to speed up, not slow down,” village president Jane Cahill Wolfgram said.

“No we can’t wait,” said Trustee Colleen Little, the chair of the joint fire and EMS board. “I know it’s pricey, but it’s not the Taj Mahal.”

In the long term, the communities are looking at building a second fire and EMS station at Windsor Crossing. The hope is the new station will reduce the time needed to reach calls in Windsor. The current need for more staff will continue to be high when a second station is added.

In his report, LaFeber said the service had a record number of calls again last year. The majority of calls were for EMS which reflects a national trend. In 2020 the service responded to 1,645 calls, of which 1,352 were EMS, including motor vehicle accidents.The busiest months of the year were December and July with more than 160 calls each month.

Calls in DeForest topped 900 for the first time, while Windsor reached almost 500 calls for the first time. The towns of Vienna. Leeds, and Hampdenadding less than 200 calls.

The department had a membership of three full-time firefighters/AEMTs , For full-time medics 6 LTE medics 1 office manager 1 fire inspector one assistant EMS chief in one Department chief in addition to the full-time staff there are approximately 38 paid on-call members.

The full-time staff shift schedule consisted of an alternating A and B shift to provide service from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The medic staff covers 24/7 Monday through Saturday with LTE staff covering Sunday; the additional hours (nights and weekends) are covered by the paid on-call members.