Minnesota Fire Departments Joined Forces

Duluth and Superior officials joined forces Friday to announce a newly signed mutual aid agreement between the cities' fire departments.

The agreement formalizes and strengthens a longtime working relationship between the two communities. Revised language calls for full cooperation in all emergencies, while the previous agreement pertained only to fires.

The departments have worked together for a number of years, notably during a train derailment south of Superior in 1992 that resulted in the release of benzene over the Twin Ports and evacuations in both cities, Superior Fire Chief Stephen Gotelaere said.

More recently, the departments joined forces after a 16-car pileup in January on the Minnesota side of the Bong Bridge.

Duluth Mayor Herb Bergson used Friday's news conference as an opportunity to recognize Superior police officers and firefighters who ignored the state boundary and gave a helping hand.

"There was one fatality," Bergson said. "There may have been more if the Superior Police Department and Superior Fire Department hadn't crossed state lines."

Bergson said Superior responders also contributed to the safety of Duluth officers and firefighters on the scene.

The goal of the new agreement is twofold: to save lives and to drive down the cost of government services, Superior Mayor Dave Ross said.

"As the largest city in northern Minnesota and the largest city in northern Wisconsin, we have an obligation to set an example," Bergson said.

By working together, Duluth Fire Chief John Strongitharm said the departments can share resources such as specialized dive and rescue teams, which would be costly for both communities to maintain.

The mutual aid agreement between Duluth and Superior fire departments was last updated in 1987, the same year Bergson took office as Superior's mayor.

Ross said officials in Duluth and Superior are looking for more cost-saving opportunities.

Last week, Duluth, Superior and Hermantown officials announced plans to work together on drug investigations. Last year, Superior joined Duluth and other Minnesota communities to combat financial crimes.