At their regular study session Monday, city of Ottawa commissioners heard a proposal from Tim Matthias, city fire chief, that would more tightly join the services of the Ottawa Fire Department and Lincoln-Ottawa-Harrison (LOH) Fire Department.


"This could have a positive impact on our ISO (fire insurance rating), because of the additional manpower — for Ottawa as well as the surrounding townships," Matthias said. "Ottawa is currently at a three (rating), and we are really working to get to two."


At the meeting, Matthias asked commissioners to consider approving an automatic mutual aid agreement between the Ottawa Fire Department and LOH. The agreement would mean LOH, which covers all townships immediately adjacent to Ottawa, would be automatically paged when the Ottawa Fire Department receives a call for service, and visa versa.


Most routine calls would then be canceled if further assistance is unneeded, saving resources while preserving the option of having near-instant backup if either agency encounters a larger emergency, such as a structure fire.


Per Ottawa and LOH’s current arrangement, either agency can call the other for aid. However, requesting aid — as opposed to the aid being automatic — results in backup arriving later than it would per the new agreement, Matthias said.


The groundwork for the two agencies’ working relationship has been laid for years, Matthias said.


"For the last year to year and a half, we’ve been calling LOH into the city when we have fires to be our backup — they help us backfill our station, to be ready for the next call," he said. "There’s times when we have four firefighters total on shift. Those are the times we need assistance."


Matthias estimated a majority of LOH’s volunteer firefighters live in Ottawa, furthering the capacity to assist the Ottawa Fire Department.


Commissioners plan to discuss the matter further at their Feb. 24 study session.