ST. JOSEPH — St. Joseph will be getting more fire protection, and providing it to Benton Township, through an automatic aid agreement approved by commissioners Monday.

Jeremy Connell, supervisor of firefighters with the city’s department of public safety, explained that automatic aid is provided through Berrien County dispatchers as soon as a structure fire is reported, avoiding delays. With mutual aid, the responding department decides if it needs help after it arrives at the scene. No compensation will be required.

St. Joseph’s officers would respond to fires at select properties within Benton Township’s commercial corridor along M-139, Napier Avenue and Pipestone Road, which includes the Orchards Mall, as well as the Lake Michigan College campus. If the responding agency gets to the scene and decides it does not need help, it can call off the automatic aid request.

When St. Joseph officers are sent to a scene, off-duty officers can be called in to provide protection in the city.

Along with additional firefighters, the departments can share equipment, Connell said. St. Joseph would send its 105-foot ladder truck if needed, and Benton Township would provide its pumper engine.

St. Joseph has a mutual aid agreement with other Berrien County departments, and has had an automatic aid agreement with the Lincoln Township Fire Department for about a year. In that time it has been dispatched 10 times. They were called off three times before arriving, assisted with four fires, arrived once when the fire had been extinguished, and assisted with two other calls.

St. Joseph provides its ladder truck to Lincoln Township, and the township has an apparatus that refills air tanks at the scene, Connell said. The departments have done trainings together, and Lincoln Township assisted with traffic control during the Blossomtime parade and St. Joseph fireworks.

Benton Township Fire Chief Dan Durham told Connell that recently there had been no fire calls to the select properties within the automatic aid area.

St. Joseph has for several years been in a transition from having a full-time police and fire department to training police to respond to fires as public safety officers. St. Joseph has four full-time firefighters remaining (with one on military medical leave) and three are expected to retire within two and a half years, Director Steve Neubecker said. Benton Township has a full-time police department and a fire department with two stations.

Benton Township trustees had already approved the agreement.

In other business, St. Joseph accepted the donation of the Korean War monument in Lake Bluff Park from the Korean Veterans of Southwest Michigan, which had erected and maintained the memorial. The proposal was approved by the Parks Advisory Board in May, on the condition that it be restored to a “like-new” condition, which was completed this month.

The memorial is among those honoring veterans from World Wars I and II and the Vietnam War, as well as Berrien County’s law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty.

Commissioner Jeff Richards thanked the veterans for placing the memorial from its previous location on the south side of the city to the more prominent place along the bluff.

Contact:, 932-0360, Twitter: @HPMatuszak