Burning Questions

Assessing the needs of the Union Grove-Yorkville Fire Department

June 2021


The Union Grove-Yorkville Fire Department (UGYFD), located in western Racine County, is a consolidated department that serves the villages of Union Grove and Yorkville. The department was founded in 1895 in Union Grove and, according to its website, became a jointly supported department in 1955 with the establishment of the Union Grove-Yorkville Fire Commission. Today, the department continues to be governed by that commission, which consists of three representatives from each village and one elected member of the department.

The UGYFD is staffed primarily by volunteer members who receive compensation only when called in to respond to a call or for time spent on training and education. Like many smaller fire and emergency medical services (EMS) agencies in Wisconsin that maintain similar paid-on-call (POC) staffing models, it is now struggling to maintain services in the face of increasing call volumes and increasing difficulty in recruiting and retaining part-time volunteers.

The Foxconn industrial development is located immediately to the east of Yorkville. While the size of the Foxconn project has diminished considerably since its original proposal in 2017, both villages anticipate considerable development pressure over the next 20 to 30 years and have adopted plans to allow for substantial residential, commercial, and industrial growth. This anticipated development – and a corresponding subsequent increase in call volumes – presents another challenge for UGYFD as it considers its future service model.

In this report, at the request of village and fire commission leaders, the Wisconsin Policy Forum seeks to provide the department’s stakeholders with knowledge that can be used to establish a path forward. We do so by evaluating the department’s current service and staffing model and challenges that have recently emerged. We then compare UGYFD’s staffing, spending, and response capacity to those of six peer departments that serve areas with similar populations and call volumes as a means of providing further insight into the possible need for Union Grove and Yorkville leaders to adjust the existing model.

To carry out the study, we collected and synthesized data on fire and EMS finances, staffing, equipment/apparatus, fire station size and characteristics, and operations from the UGFYD as well as from the six carefully selected peer departments. We use these data sources as the basis for developing insights and policy options for UGFYD and village leaders that we hope will assist their decision-making as they consider the future of fire and EMS in their communities. Continue reading…