B.C. Kowalski/City Pages

Former Rothschild Chief Jason Russ, right, and former Schofield Chief Rob Bowen now jointly run the new Riverside District. They will do so until a new fire chief is hired.

The city of Schofield and the village of Rothschild have been operating as one fire department—Riverside Fire District—since the first of the year, and so far response times have improved for residents.

Having a single district also has led to increased onsite staffing to respond to fire or emergency medical service calls, says district commission member E.J. Stark. The Schofield operation is staffed with two firefighter-EMTs during the day, and Rothschild’s with two firefighter-EMTs on the night shift. Additional on-call staff are available when the stations get busy.

Former Schofield Chief Rob Bowen and former Rothschild Chief Jason Russ are heading the district until a single chief is hired this year.

Both departments began working in tandem in early 2016 to match training and protocol standards to ensure a smooth transition, Russ says. That work seems to have paid off: Though the district is only about a month old, crews already are responding around two minutes faster to emergency calls, Bowen says. Those minutes can make a big difference and potentially save lives.

The commission has narrowed its list to six candidates for the new fire chief position, Stark says. There have been some delays during the background check process, Stark says, so an exact date of when the fire district will hire a new chief is yet unknown.

Beyond hiring a new chief, Riverside Fire District will eventually build one central fire district building. The location hasn’t yet been decided, says commission member Bill Schremp, but will be located based on call volume and location data. Work on a new location won’t begin until 2018.