HELENA – Starting next year, a piece of U.S. Forest Service land just off Nelson Road could be home to a new station for York Fire-Rescue.
Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest supervisor Bill Avey signed off last week on a “special use authorization,” allowing the volunteer department to build a station there. It will be five miles past York, just past the Favorite Gulch Road turnoff to the Eldorado Heights subdivision.
York Fire-Rescue Chief John Naylor said the department has been looking for years to add a station closer to the Eldorado Heights, one of the fastest-growing parts of their service area. He said they initially looked for locations inside the subdivision, but they determined that the Nelson Road site would work better.
Naylor officially filed an application for the authorization in February. He thanked Forest Service leaders for their cooperation during the process.
“They were really helpful in getting this whole thing started and getting it approved,” he said. “I expected a lot longer and a lot of hoops to jump through that we didn’t have to do.”
He estimated about 75 homes and 300 residents are now in the Eldorado Heights.
“It just makes sense, because that’s the larger part of our population, to have a station out here,” he said.
Naylor said many of his volunteers live in the subdivision. If a fire breaks out there, they have to make the steep, five-mile drive to York, pick up their apparatus and come back. That round trip can add 20 minutes to their response time.
“The way things go with fire, you only have about ten minutes to get on scene if you’re going to save the structure at all,” said Naylor. “By the time they get back, the structure’s probably fully involved.”
In the winter, Naylor said there are also safety concerns about the trip up and down Nelson Road.
“It’s really dangerous,” he said.
York Fire-Rescue is already working on plans for the new station. The Forest Service will have to approve them before any construction can go forward.
Naylor said he hopes to start work on the building in the spring.
“The community support has been overwhelming to build this station,” he said.
Naylor said the department has anticipated spending about $200,000 on the building itself. He said the new station is only possible because of the annual fundraisers York Fire-Rescue holds – like the 38 Special mountain bike ride, held last month, and York Fest, which will be held on Sept. 15.
This year’s 38 Special ride raised more than $14,000 for the department.
Naylor said they eventually hope to add a 50,000 gallon water tank for refilling their apparatus, but that they will need to look for grants to pay for that.
The Eldorado Heights station will be York Fire-Rescue’s third, after the main station in York and one in the American Bar area.