Burlington Rescue Squad to disband at end of the year

NOW: Burlington Rescue Squad to disband at end of the year

BURLINGTON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Smaller emergency responder departments are disappearing in our area.

The Burlington Rescue Squad announced it is disbanding at the end of the year.

It comes a day after we reported the Stone Bank Fire Department will cease operations at the end of the year.

The Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin (PFFW) says consolidation has pros and cons. In Burlington, they think it will actually lead to faster response times. But not everywhere.

The Burlington Rescue Squad says like most other small towns in Wisconsin, their community has outgrown their emergency response. They have 20 volunteers taking in 1,500 calls a year.

"It is extremely challenging," said Burlington Rescue Squad Chief Jeffrey Koenen. "I mean we're running 24/7. We do have night crews that come on that go from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m."

Mayor Jeannie Hefty says the city was prepared for the possibility the rescue squad would shut down, and the city can absorb their responsibilities with no increased costs or response time. 

"We were running the numbers already this summer about if this happens. And like I said, this was not our call," said Mayor Hefty.

The PFFW says this is a good example of consolidation. But under-staffing of local departments causes delays when people have to cycle through potential emergency responders looking for one with enough manpower. 

"There's a significant delay there," said Biggart. "We know that you can only be pulse-less and not breathing for so long before the damage is irreversible."

The PFFW also says consolidation can lead to under-funding increasingly taxed departments because Wisconsin cities are mostly prohibited from raising taxes for public safety without a referendum.

Mayor Hefty says the volunteers with the rescue squad will be given the option of joining the Burlington Fire Department as paid employees or volunteers.

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