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Working together: 18 fire agencies sign mutual aid agreement

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Mixing and matching the appropriate firefighting agencies to structure fires. That's the goal of a new fire service mutual aid agreement signed on Monday, May 12th -- that encompasses 18 municipalities in Milwaukee County.

The signing of the agreement on Monday, May 12th finalized two years of hard work.

"When someone normally calls 911 and has a bad day, has an emergency that we're responding to, I've never gotten asked in my almost 20 year career 'where are you from?' People want your help," North Shore Fire/Rescue Chief Robert Whitaker said.

The agreement means you may see firefighters from neighboring areas of your community responding to a fire on your street.

Imagine there's a fire on the edge of Wauwatosa -- and the closest fire engine is in Milwaukee. Milwaukee may show up to fight that fire.

"We're trying to take slow steps to make sure that we are equitable in this process and to make sure that communities receive and give a fair mutual aid because there are dollars here at stake. We also want to provide the best service that we can and make sure that we provide quick and timely service because in an emergency that's what people want," Whitaker said.

Currently, fire emergency agencies have worked together using the mutual aid box alarm system -- or MABAS -- but that's usually utilized during extremely large incidents.

The new agreement will work on smaller fires, and is a step toward more coordination between agencies.

"The radio systems have to be coordinated and talk to each other. There's training issues that we have to work on. We need to make sure we're on the same playbook," Whitaker said.

Chief Whitaker says there are three systems in place to make sure that the give and take is equitable, so no one feels that there's a taxpayer burden for any of the agencies.