Fire station should be fully utilized
I am writing this letter in response to the Dec. 24, 2009 article in the Leader titled Fire station ready. It seems that Trustee Nelson and Chief Fairchild have forgotten why the new fire station was built north of the bridge.
During numerous Rural Fire District trustee meetings which I attended, it was stated that we needed equipment on the north side of the bridge to insure adequate structural fire protection should the bridge become impassible for any reason. Never did their comments say only wild land fire protection. This time of year wild land fires are not much of a threat, but structural fires are. If we just needed the station to spread out equipment, we could have rented storage space for a lot less than $230,000.
This is starting to look like a bait and switch. Now that we have a new fire station, we should ask what kind of effort has been made to get volunteers to staff the new station. Maybe at the next Rural Fire District board meeting, each board member can share along with Chief Fairchild what specifically they have done to get rural district volunteer fire fighters for the new station.
In addition to this, Chief Fairchild, the Rural Fire Chief, no doubt wants to get any new fire fighters trained ASAP and so maybe he can share how he is accelerating a training program for any new rural volunteers. If Chief Fairchild was to assign current volunteer fire fighters to the new station that live north of the bridge, he could with a single executive order make the new fire station a fully active station.
I doubt any current Polson city fire fighters that live in the Rural District would object to being assigned to the new station as they will be protecting their own homes. The re-assigned fire fighters could be complemented with new volunteers. It is my understanding that some of the fire fighters assigned to the Polson fire station are grandfathered into retirement benefits for both their city and rural fire fighting.
The re-assignment of some of them seems like a natural way to go as the Chief tries to maximize fire protection in the city and rural areas. In essence, I do not see how not making the new fire station fully active improves the Rural Districts fire protection.
Lastly, Trustee Nelson stated we need a radio for the new station. This I do not understand as we have two other stations — Big Arm and Irving Flats, currently operating without radios. If the Rural Fire District was not partnering with the city fire company via the inter-local agreement then we would need a radio for dispatch etc.
Rural District voters, I recommend we all attend the next trustee meeting which is at 7 p.m., on Wednesday, Feb. 10 at the new fire station and ask some tough questions about why the new fire station is not going to be fully utilized as quickly as possible.