Ill. FD aims to grow with its call volume
The Aurora Fire Department is looking to add a fire station, an engine company, two medic units and 52 staff members by 2025
By Megan Jones
CHICAGO — The Aurora Fire Department is dealing with a record number of calls for service as officials work on expansion plans to help the district deal with the extra workload.
Aurora Fire Department Battalion Chief Jim Rhodes said he spent an hour and a half driving around the city recently, looking at all the new development coming in, from new apartment complexes to businesses, and imagining the impact when Hollywood Casino moves from downtown Aurora to a site near Interstate 88 in the city.
It left him with a big question: How does the fire department deal with this growth, and the resulting increase in calls for service?
By 2025, the department is looking to add a new fire station, an engine company, two new medic units and 52 staff members. Officials were already planning a new station on the northeast side but the planned move of the casino to that part of the city solidified that need, Aurora Fire Chief David McCabe said.
In 2022, the department saw the highest number of calls for service in its history with 21,881 calls. The department has seen nearly a 14% increase in calls over the past five years, officials said.
“This was the evidence we needed and the casino was the final push that we need a station on the northeast part of town and currently have no presence past north of I-88, even though we go past Bilter Road almost to the entrance of Fermilab,” McCabe said. “The distance that our nearest engine has to drive to get up there does not provide the level of service our residents expect from us.”
The department’s new 10th station is planned for a site directly behind the Chicago Premium Outlets mall at Bilter Road and Nan Street. Ground is expected to be broken this summer for the project, with the station opening next year.
In addition, the department plans to relocate Station 4 and Station 9 to provide better coverage for the north and northeast sections of the city, McCabe said.
Station 4 will be relocated to the east of the Aurora Police Department on Indian Trail and will become the fire department’s administrative headquarters. The current station at 800 Michels Ave. is at the end of its life and can no longer fit most engines, officials said.
Station 9 will move from 2339 Diehl Road to a new location on Eola Road at a location to be determined between Liberty Street and North Aurora Road, according to officials.
The department is aiming to break ground at the new sites for Station 4 and Station 9 in 2024.
“This will provide much better coverage for the north and northeast sides of the city and help reduce response times drastically,” McCabe said of the moves. “Some engines are six miles away and can take over 10 minutes to go there if there is a crash at Eola and Butterfield for instance. That is too long to wait for a city our size.”
McCabe said the department is working hard to keep up with a changing Aurora.
“We are at an unprecedented time of growth for the city, which is really exciting,” McCabe said, adding the department expects to see an additional 1,000 calls per year once the 169-home Del Webb 55-year-old and older community now being developed is complete on the city’s far southeast side.
The department plans to add an additional ambulance in 2025 to Station 12 at 2424 Hafenricter Road to meet the expected increased in demand in that part of Aurora.
While hiring has remained a challenge because of a nationwide shortage of firefighters, Rhodes said the department plans to hire 26 people in its spring academy that ends in June and run an additional fall academy, bringing 10 to 15 additional hires. This will help move the department to its goal of 265 personnel by 2025, he said.