New London will not expand fire service in Maple Creek
Town chairman looks to save money
By Scott Bellile
The New London Police and Fire Commission decided against extending the city fire department’s coverage to the entire town of Maple Creek.
“I’m not so sure it’s a good idea,” New London Fire Chief Mark Wilfuer said when he brought the matter before the commission Dec. 17.
Wilfuer said Maple Creek Town Chairman Paul Gitter recently asked him if New London Fire Department would consider servicing the northern half of the town.
“It’s all a matter of the town of Maple Creek would like to save some money on their fire coverage,” Wilfuer said.
Currently Bear Creek Volunteer Fire Department services the northern half of Maple Creek from Roloff Road to the Deer Creek town limits on Schweitzer Road.
NLFD covers the southern half of Maple Creek from Roloff Road to the New London city limits.
Gitter, who did not attend the New London Police and Fire Commission meeting because he said he was not told about it, told the Press Star Dec. 20 that Maple Creek pays about $9,500 per year for Bear Creek’s fire services and contributes toward equipment purchases.
Maple Creek pays New London $3,500 for coverage and does not pitch in for equipment, Gitter said.
“They’re quite a bit cheaper than Bear Creek,” Gitter said of NLFD. “The service in Bear Creek is quite expensive, but then again, Bear Creek doesn’t have the population and resources that New London has.”
Wilfuer told the police and fire commission that when Gitter asked him to take on Maple Creek, he initially thought it was a good idea. Then he thought about it more.
Wilfuer said a fire truck would have to drive 10 miles from New London to a fire on Schweitzer Road.
Bear Creek’s fire station is 4 miles from Schweitzer Road.
The farther distance for emergency response to northern Maple Creek would raise households’ ISO fire insurance ratings, Wilfuer said.
The Insurance Services Office, or ISO, rates a community from 1 to 10 based on how well its fire department is equipped to put out a fire in the community. A lower ISO score denotes a safer community and results in lower homeowners insurance costs.
Taking on all of Maple Creek could also hurt Bear Creek Volunteer Fire Department, Wilfuer said.
Wilfuer said he would not want Bear Creek Volunteer Fire Department to dissolve due to municipalities switching to larger fire departments. New London and Bear Creek rely on each other for mutual aid calls to major fires.
“The other concern I have is there’s been talk of other townships who are ready to leave their coverage area and come with us, too,” Wilfuer said. “So I mean, where do we draw the line and say, you know, we can’t? I mean, there’s no way we could take on every township that surrounds the city with the amount of people and the amount of equipment we have.
“I’m just afraid we’re going to end up with other townships coming and looking for the same thing,” Wilfuer said.
“I agree,” Commissioner Allen Grumann said. “And I think that if we open up this can of worms, it’s just going to create a whole bunch of chaos in all the surrounding townships.”
Commission President John Lee said he predicts NLFD will only receive more requests to contract with towns currently serviced by rural fire departments.
The upside to servicing a greater portion of Maple Creek is it would generate extra revenue for NLFD that could help to purchase equipment, although the revenue would be minor, Wilfuer said.
“I don’t think this would increase our revenue very much because there’s not a lot of property [tax] bills and there’s probably not a lot of calls,” Grumann said.
Towns pay the city of New London for fire service based on their tax base and their number of fire calls per year.
NLFD currently does not respond to many fires in the southern half of Maple Creek, Wilfuer said.
Gitter told the Press Star he is not surprised the commission rejected his request because it did several years ago as well.
“I understand,” Gitter said. “I guess they don’t really want animosity between the fire departments. [I am] just looking at saving money is all.”
NLFD services the city of New London, the town of Mukwa, and parts of the towns of Maple Creek, Caledonia, Lebanon and Liberty.
Bear Creek Volunteer Fire Department services the village of Bear Creek and the towns of Bear Creek, Maple Creek, Deer Creek and Lebanon.