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Type of Jurisdictions Involved


Specific Jurisdictions Involved

Ozaukee and Milwaukee Counties:

  • Village of Bayside,
  • Village of Brown Deer,
  • Village of Fox Point,
  • Village of Glendale,
  • Village of Shorewood,
  • Village of Whitefish Bay,
  • Village of River Hills






Type of Agreement

Contract for services

Implementation and Incubation

  • Merger of fire deparments - in 1995, the North Shore Fire Department was created from a portion of the previously independent fire departments of these north Milwaukee suburban villages
  • Service for approximately 69,000 people
  • WI Statutes 66.0301(2) merger In 1970s and 1980s - Brown Deer, Glendale, Shorewood, and Whitefish Bay proposed the creation of a merged/consolidated fire and EMS, neither of which were successful in 1988 and 1989
  • Glendale, Whitefish Bay, and Shorewood teamed up to form a joint dispatch service to meet new State 911 emergency dispatch requirements; Bayside, Fox Point, Brown Deer, and River Hills did not join the effort at that time

Factors Involved

Several factors were involved that led to collaboration:

  • Past merged services
  • Two major apartment fires in the late 1980s and early 1990s, both of which might have been contained with assistance from surrounding communities - this started the conversation about regional fire fighting approach again
  • 1992-1993 decision by City of Milwaukee to no longer provide mutual aid to surrounding municipalities
  • 1993 - Villages of Glendale and Whitefish Bay decided to share one fire chief with control over their separate departments
  • Villages of Glendale, Shorewood, and Whitefish Bay were major leaders of the consolidation
  • Strong political leadership helps with community support of merger
  • Outside facilitator conducted planning meetings
  • Involved employees in consolidation process.
  • Goals were set for service outcomes.
  • New identity created for the new entity


  • Enhanced service quality - response times improved by an average of 40% across all communities and more effective response to large events.
  • Insurance ratings for private residences, commercial buildings and manufacturing facilities were upgraded in every member community, saving property owners millions of dollars of insurance premiums.
  • More efficient delivery of services - number of administrators reduced from 21 to 7
  • Consistent and higher quality fire/building code enforcement
  • Unified efforts and vision in training, fire codes, philosphy, and all phases of operating the fire department


  • Villages appointed representatives to set up a series of committees to investigate key questions regarding the proposed merger
  • Response time has improved
  • Department can respond to any municipality at any time without requiring approval
  • Less administration
  • More consistent and higher quality fire and building code enforcement Better response coverage to large events
  • Higher level of paramedic certification attained than smaller communities Insurance ratings of private residences, commercial buildings, and manufacturing facilities have been upgraded
  • The Fire Department includes a Board of representatives from each of the member communities

In October 2015 the Public Policy Forum published a retrospective analysis of the consolidation that resulted in the North Shore Fire Department. The report may be found here. The Public Policy Forum's analysis concluded that the consolidation saved the participating jurisdictions substantial tax dollars while providing a higher level of service - "Overall, we observe that despite deploying fewer resources today, the NSFD is providing a higher level of service. Not only is the department’s capacity to provide Advanced Life Support (ALS) service far more advanced in light of its greater number of paramedics, but it also has achieved a substantially higher “ISO” rating for its firefighting capability than any of the individual departments maintained prior to consolidation.

Most of the participating jurisdictions are saving at least $250,000 per year in operating expense and together have saved over $3.4 million in avoided capital expenditures.

"Concerns that typically are raised during functional consolidation discussions did not materialize in the North Shore. Municipalities that engage in consolidation discussions often must overcome fears about a loss of local control over service provision and quality, and the related concern that some jurisdictions will demand and/or receive better service than others. In the North Shore, rather than driving a wedge between the different municipalities and producing resentment about service levels or loss of identity, the consolidation of fire and rescue services has encouraged leaders to pursue additional consolidation, including a consolidated dispatch center, public health department, and cable commission."

"Both larger and smaller municipalities gave something up to benefit from the collective whole. Several of the North Shore leaders interviewed for this report cited the willingness of the larger North Shore municipalities to accept a governance structure that gave each municipality one vote on the NSFD board – despite significant differences in population – as instrumental to the consolidation effort. According to these leaders, it engendered trust and goodwill among leaders of the smaller municipalities and encouraged them, in turn, to accept some level of risk that their service needs would be subsumed by their larger neighbors."

Milwaukee Journal article - "North Shore fire service consolidation saved millions, report says"

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