The Roundup -

Fire Department Gets New Home

 

December 27, 2017 | View PDF

Richland County Volunteer Firemen. Front row, L to R, Brandon Ligon, John Seitz, Chad Mueller, Don Garsjo, Mario Winsky, Dave Christensen, Rob Gilbert III, fire chief Larry Christensen, Jeremy Jensen and Zach Netz. Back row, L to R, Brady Mueller, assistant chief Justin King, Bo Kindopp, Adam Smith, Tyler Christensen, Kale Rasmussen, Josh Schmierer, Tony Hanson, Brandon Roth, Mike Stewart, Trent Thomas and Allen Neuleib. Not pictured: Fire marshall and assistant chief Rob Gilbert II, Derek Carda, Jace Everett, Al McGahan, Justin Messer and Justin Verhasselt.

The Richland County Fire Department celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2013 with the promise of a brand new fire hall in the works.

The present was a long time coming and one of needs, not wants; they had simply outgrown the space on 2nd St. in Sidney. Equipment mandates have changed with a 3 man crew necessitating a 4 door truck now required and with trucks already bumper to bumper, there was not enough room to update. For at least the last 15 years, the garage door had to be opened in order to get in and firefighters with gear had to walk sideways to get through and into their trucks. Meeting and training space was cramped and office space was almost non-existent.

More than five years after initial talks with the Richland County Commissioners, the fire department moved into its new home at 1105 3rd St. NW on August 24th. The trucks have been moved three times so far, while the rest of the equipment is still being adjusted. November 16th saw the final move from the old building with the City of Sidney officially taking over the space on December 1st.

Funding of $7.9 million came from Richland County, primarily from oil and gas funds. The city now contributes its share of funding, reversing the previous arrangement where the city owned the building and the county contributed. The project came in on time and under budget with very few change orders.

Both the fire department and the county commissioners wanted a facility that would address firefighting needs for the next 100 years, prompting firemen to visit several fire stations and gather ideas. The best of each toured facility was incorporated in to the Sidney design. With JGA as the architect, it was fairly easy to finalize plans since that company had designed the other fire stations.

The commissioners wished to hire local businesses knowing that local contractors are more accountable down the road. B&B Builders was the contractor at risk, guaranteeing the maximum price and then hiring sub contractors to make sure that happened. Those subs included Prairie Electric, Frontier Heating, Hansen Independent, ElectricLand, Sidney Millworks, Badlands Concrete, Jensen Services, Zach's Tape and Texture, and Cal's Carpet.

The department has added one more grass truck, houses the ARRF truck, plus all the fire trucks, gear and tools required for a first class department, all in their brightly lit, gleaming new facility.

State of the art communications, all connected within the county fiber optics system, insure firemen can talk to each other and the command center. Overall communication is much better, and the county IT crew takes care of any issues that arise. Meeting areas provide ample space, and grants have provided tools such as smart boards to facilitate meetings and training. The sound system is still being worked on, trying to distribute sound evenly in the large room.

The sparkling kitchen has the same equipment as the old fire hall except that it's new and passes code. The bathrooms, one men's and one women's on each floor, are ADA compliant and an elevator and a stairway provide transportation to the second floor.

The second floor houses the command center, offices for the fire chiefs, and will be usable as sleeping quarters in the event that the volunteer department becomes a paid one. Office desks were purchased from the State Prison at cost, including delivery.

The fire department is constantly updating to meet the needs of Richland County. Next will be extraction equipment, going from hydraulic to battery powered, which is lighter and faster. Trucks are constantly being upgraded with plans to replace three Type 6 grass trucks this winter and be ready for fire season next spring. Extra repairs will be done in house. In addition to the Type 6 trucks, the department has a 706 which can carry 1500 gallons of water, plus 13 satellite trucks in the area. The numerous water trucks privately owned by farmers also play a huge role in fire suppression, an invaluable asset this, and every, season.

The ARRF truck is designated for aircraft fires only and was previously housed in the snow removal building at the airport. When it became a Part 139 airport, the Sidney-Richland Airport received 95% in match money for the truck from the FAA. Response time is reduced by having the truck at the fire hall, warm and ready to go. Each year, a couple of fire fighters travel to Helena to be certified on aircraft firefighting, then return to teach the rest.

Fire chief Larry Christensen says future plans include becoming more of a regional training facility. Montana State Fire Services Training School has awesome equipment and provides hands on training that Sidney could use to develop a regional program which could service fire departments within a 100 mile radius. Equipment includes a live burn trailer which opens up into rooms with different fire locations. A confined space trailer does not have actual fire but teaches firemen to get around in tight spaces with all their gear and pulling a hose. Sidney fire fighters do attend the Baker Fire Academy once a year, keeping their skills sharp.

The Fire Department has 32 firemen and is always looking for recruits. At this point, several firemen have served over 20 years and some are nearing the 20 year mark and the department needs the next group of guys up and going to replace those who are retiring. Anyone who might be interested in joining is encouraged to contact the fire department at 406-433-1122.

An open house will be held next spring along with the rededication of the building as the Fred Hurst Memorial Fire Hall. Hurst was fire chief in Sidney from 1913 to 1941. Even though the fire hall is new, the department continues to rely on the generous support of the community to purchase new equipment. Each and every contribution is sincerely appreciated.

 

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