Rock Falls and Sterling vote to combine fire departments to save money

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Two Illinois communities are teaming up their fire departments. It makes them both more efficient while saving their communities bottom lines.

Through smoke and flames, firefighters would say they have a pretty close bond with each other.  However, for Rock Falls, their fire department's family is extended, just across the river with the Sterling Fire Department.

"They respond together on a daily basis, they train together periodically.  They know each other," said future fire chief Gary Cook.

So, it only made sense when both city's council members voted unanimously to combine the administrations of both fire departments Monday night, September 9, 2013.

The new department will be renamed Twin City Joint Fire Command.

"We're going to share one chief and then there will be a deputy chief in Rock Falls and a deputy chief in Sterling," said Rock Falls city administrator Robbin Blackert.

Blackert said consolidation has been in the discussion for years now, but right now seems to be the right time since the Rock Falls fire chief is retiring.

The biggest benefit for both cities would be the savings in purchasing equipment.

"It may not be necessary to have duplicates of equipment in both sides, so we're going to be doing the study of age of different equipment that will that need to be replaced," said Blackert.

Cook was selected as the future fire chief of the newly combined department.  He says now it's just a matter of making the transition.

"The biggest thing is getting both administration deputy chiefs cross-training, one knowing the other community, because they're both  going to work both sides at different times," Cook said.

He says that will help the departments cut costs and increase efficiency.

"It's all about service delivery to the community, the most efficient timely way," said Cook.

Consolidating saves Rock Falls $20,000 a year while Sterling saves about $40,00 a year.  The agreement will start September 27, 2013, the day after Rock Falls Fire Chief retires.