Evanston firefighters will train regularly at this drill tower in Skokie.Photos by Mary Mumbrue

An intergovernmental agreement between the Village of Skokie and the City of Evanston will allow Evanston firefighters to train at Skokie Fire Station 17, 8157 Central Park Ave., on a regular basis. The station has a three-story drill tower, which allows firefighters to participate in varied training exercises.

 Under the agreement, on a monthly basis Evanston and Skokie firefighters will each use the facility 25 percent of the time, the two departments will train together 25 percent of the time, and the remaining time will be used for maintenance of the facility. Without regular access to a drill tower, Evanston firefighters have conducted their training exercises in homes and buildings already slated for demolition, said Evanston Fire Chief Greg Klaiber.

At a press conference and tour of the facility held last week, Chief Klaiber said the City of Evanston has needed a drill tower “for at least a decade. We put it in the capital improvement plan at a cost of $800,000-$900,000.” The agreement, he said, “is a very cost-effective solution – the agreement, rather than constructing [our own] tower is the way to go.”

Under the agreement with Skokie, the City of Evanston will contribute $286,000 toward capital improvement and will pay a $15,000 annual fee for maintenance and replenishing training supplies.

Two major upgrades slated for the drill tower are the installation of fireproof insulation in some of the rooms and a build-out of “Class A props,” said Skokie Fire Chief Ralph Czerwinski. The smoke distributed to the training room from Class A props will burn cleaner and be more controllable, he said, essentially creating teaching moments in fire drills. During a training session, if a supervisor sees an error in execution, the smoke can be halted and the behavior corrected “so it doesn’t become a habit,” he said.

Chief Klaiber and Chief Czerwinski emphasized the need for continual training – “not till you get it right, but till you can’t get it wrong.”

Both Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen attended the press conference and tour and appeared pleased with the training collaboration. Chief Klaiber said regular access to the drill tower could help improve Evanston’s Insurance Services Office (ISO), which has risen from 3 to 2 over the past few years. 

Mayor Van Dusen said Skokie’s ISO rating of 1, the highest achievable, can help indirectly with economic development. “It doesn’t get the [business-owners’] foot in the door,” he told the RoundTable, but it is an attraction once a business is considering Skokie, because the ISO rating can help lower insurance costs.