Partners in public safety improvement

Grafton’s Rice finds ways to upgrade procedures as acting chief of the Saukville Fire Department

SAUKVILLE AND GRAFTON Fire Chief Bill Rice posed in front of a Saukville Fire Department ambulance in the fire station. Since Rice assumed the interim Saukville Fire Chief role, the Grafton and Saukville departments have begun a number of collaborative efforts to reduce response time and pool resources. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

The Saukville and Grafton fire departments continue to work together to better pool resources and provide faster response times to emergency situations. 

Grafton Fire Chief and acting Saukville Fire Chief Bill Rice detailed several initiatives the two departments have engaged in since forming a partnership about two years ago. 

One major step the departments have taken is aimed at addressing gaps in Saukville emergency management service coverage during the day. 

Rice said the Saukville EMS coordinator has begun notifying the Grafton Fire Department when there are gaps in coverage so the departments can create a plan for forming an EMS crew in the event of an emergency. If the Saukville Fire Department does not have enough EMS personnel to staff an ambulance when a call comes in, Rice said Grafton will dispatch an ambulance to meet the Saukville personnel on a scene to form a complete crew. 

Rice said this creates a protocol ahead of emergencies, rather than having departments scramble to assemble a full ambulance crew after a call comes in. 

“We’ve improved service by identifying gaps in that schedule and now we have a plan in place before the call comes in,” he said. 

The two departments also collaborate on fire inspections for new or existing buildings, and conduct joint fire trainings. 

“We take advantage of each other’s skills,” Rice said. “We’re starting to see a lot of good changes here.” 

Another collaboration the two departments are working on, Rice said, is sharing a radio channel for emergency calls. 

Rice said the change may seem small, it will save EMS crews from both departments the time and hassle of switching radio channels while responding to emergencies. 

All the initiatives are bettering ties between the two departments, which may one day combine to form a regional department, Rice said. 

Rice said while he believes creating a countywide fire department would best address slow response times and pool county resources, a regional department between Saukville, Grafton and any other municipality interested in an agreement may be an option if a countywide agreement dissipates. 

“I feel strongly that ultimately the best choice is a countywide organization,” he said. “Whether that will happen or not, I don’t know.” 

Rice said if the countywide department does not come to fruition, it is likely Saukville, Grafton and other interested municipalities would operate through a single department that municipalities would contract with to provide services. 

Contract amounts would likely be based off a formula devised from a municipality’s population, call volume and equalized value to ensure equal payment based on need. 

For the time being though, fire chiefs and municipal officials will continue discussions about a countywide option. 

While the countywide discussions continue, Saukville may improve its emergency services by creating two full-time firefighter paramedic positions, which are included in a draft of the village’s 2022 budget. Rice said while the budget is not final, village trustees have supported the new positions. 

“I think it’s something that the community can be very proud of,” Rice said. 

Rice said if the new positions are approved, the Saukville Fire Department will need to hire paramedics to fill the roles, in addition to its ongoing call for new firefighters and emergency medical technicians. 

“We’re in serious need of new members,” he said. 

Rice said the department is actively searching for new members. He said ideally applicants would be interested in being trained in both firefighter and EMT roles, but that it is not required. 

He urged those interested or with experience to visit the Village of Saukville website for more information or contact the fire department. 

With EMT classes filling up quickly this year, Rice said, he hopes to receive applications as soon as possible.



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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