Fire Chiefs Evaluate Consolidating Services

Consolidated fire districts are safer

Consolidating ten Westchester County fire departments could improve firefighting, make homes and businesses safer, and save homeowners and businesses $47 million in fire insurance premiums, as well as reducing the costs to cities and towns, according to a study by Pace University's Edwin G. Michaelian Institute for Public Policy and Management that was commissioned by the Westchester County Career Fire Chiefs Association.

The study of 10 departments and districts is a possible precursor to more detailed research. It was announced July 1, 2009 at the Pace Graduate Center in downtown White Plains, and was covered on the front page of the Journal News newspaper and on WINS news radio.

More about the study:

The purpose of this study is to explore the feasibility of enhancing cooperation or of consolidating fire departments and districts in Eastchester, Fairview, Greenville, Hartsdale, Larchmont, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, Pelham, Pelham Manor, and Scarsdale. The Edwin G. Michaelian Institute for Public Policy & Management was retained by the Career Fire Chiefs Association Ltd. (CFCA) to examine the operational and logistical, financial and legal dimensions of the possibility of creating one consolidated district among participating communities. From the outset, the CFCA has been motivated by a desire to improve fire services in their communities and wanted an objective assessment of the issues associated with consolidation. The CFCA actively consulted with various constituencies and entities during the lengthy study process and voluntarily provided necessary information to conduct this study. In short, this was a cooperative effort and the CFCA should be commended for its effort.

The 10 departments studied protect a resident population of 247,094 covering an area of 49.47 square miles. If this area was a city it would be the third most populated city in New York State following New York City and the City of Buffalo. Currently, these 10 departments operate 130 vehicles out of 25 fire stations with 604 uniformed firefighter positions (599 of which are filled and 5 of which are vacant) and 24 civilian employees at a cost of $88.1 million per year. The study looked at both enhancing cooperation and the possibilities of consolidating services. The study group quickly determined that all of the departments work well with each other, with several departments sharing the cost of training and communications. Joint purchasing is an additional area to consider, but the cost savings are relatively nominal (less than $100,000 per year). Consolidation would significantly improve fire prevention and suppression services with the potential to save substantially more money over time.