The Daily Herald surveyed 10 suburban departments, and found four of them are running at least one person short of authorized staffing levels. In some towns, this means ambulances and other firefighting equipment sometimes sit unused in the station.
Manpower is also crucial because a specific number of firefighters are needed to employ the best technique for fighting certain kinds of fires.
Another impact is bigger, better-staffed departments are called more often by neighboring communities for help. In Naperville, for instance, the city provided mutual aid 106 times in 2012 and received it only 22.
"We want to help our neighbors," said Naperville Chief Mark Puknaitis. "We understand that at times, we're kind of like the big brother in the area here; we have to give more than we receive."
You can read the full story in the Daily Herald's edition from Sunday, March 3, 2013, or online at dailyherald.com.