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New fire station is not a warehouse

Editor,

I feel compelled to respond to the recent discussions regarding the new Polson Rural Fire Station, as there is much misinformation being spread.

It has been stated that the new station is a warehouse and not an “active” station, both of which are false. To start with, a few facts about the new station: it is located less than a mile from the existing station in Polson; it is located within the City of Polson; it is fully equipped and ready to respond with wildland fire fighting equipment; wildland fires constitute a major threat to the community and a large portion of the incidents we respond to; the Rural has two fully equipped structural fire fighting engines – one in Big Arm and one in Polson; the Rural has three engine tenders, that at a minimum can provide defensive fire fighting capability, one in Big Arm, one in Irvine Flats, and one at the new station.

To move the one remaining engine to the new station would place all the district’s resources north of the bridge — currently four of the five are north of the bridge. Why is this a concern? Statistically, one-half of the rural runs are south of the bridge: on U.S. Highway 93 south, in Turtle Lake, in Valley View, along Highway 35, and out to Minesinger and Reservoir.

Assuming the bridge is an issue, as they assert, their solution would leave no rural resources south of the bridge. 

One writer suggests that the bridge was recently closed twice. There is a half truth to this. It was closed to non-emergency traffic; it has never been closed to emergency traffic.

Regardless of the foregoing, is there another compelling reason to move all rural structural resources north of the bridge? I have not heard any, but there is another issue to look at, response.

Currently, response is provided by an Interlocal Agreement which has Polson City and Polson Rural firefighters respond as one. Not only would all rural resources be north of the bridge under their proposal, but the response to emergencies would absolutely be slowed significantly. 

Why? Because it is necessary to have a crew to respond.

Currently, when enough arrive to form a crew, the engine rolls. If you split the response, it could take twice as long, or longer, to roll an engine. 

If there is a call now, the first engine typically runs with four or five, a combination of both rural and city firefighters. If half of those firefighters went to the new station and half to the city station, each will have to wait for two or three more to arrive, whereas together they have enough for a crew. This will delay response.

Why can’t the firefighters simply go to the station and respond? There is a large amount of personal protective gear (PPG) for fire fighting, one set for structural and a different set for wildland. This is kept at the station, with wildland PPG at the new station and structural PPG at the city station. It would be cost prohibitive to try and duplicate this at both stations.

The current arrangement continues to provide a high level of service to the community we serve. At a minimum, let's give this plan a chance to work. If there is a better plan out there, please bring it forward. Others have asked residents to attend the meetings and expressed your concerns, I encourage you to do so.

The board welcomes ideas and input from the community. You can also send me your e-mails at rjc@rjackclapp.com. Thank you.

R. Jack Clapp,
Polson Rural Fire Board Trustee
Polson Firefighter

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