HELENA – In 2018 the Helena Fire Department (HFD) responded to more that 3,700 calls for fires, medical and other emergency services.
Around 70 percent of those calls were medical in nature and crews responded to a total of 16 structure fires.
HFD received around 250 less calls than 2017, but Assistant Fire Chief Mike Chambers says that’s not something unusual.
“It’s been kind of a normal year,” said Chambers, “Call volume is down a little bit but within what we usually expect.”
Chambers noted that this year was historic for the department due the voters passing the $900,000 fire levy in June and HFD seeing a significant growth in personnel.
HFD added added a total of 10 new firefighters in 2018.
Six of the new fire personnel positions were paid for due in part to the levy and an $800,000 SAFER grant.
“It’s been a blessing to get this staff added to the department and turn that money back into what we can do for the community,” said Chambers.
The new firefighters mean more staff available to respond to an emergency on each shift.
“Emergency services is an interesting line of work in that you never know when calls are going to come,” noted Chambers. “You can’t say it’s going to be 4th of July or Christmas because you just never know. It just kind of comes and goes in an ebb and flow and that’s why it’s important for us to maintain this level of staffing that we have to be able to have some resilience for those days that are extra busy.”
Chambers said so far the new crew has been working out great but their training is ongoing.
“10 people, that’s nearly a third of our shift staff,” said Chambers, “So to be able to train that many folks, to be able to get them up to speed, to be able to operate independently we’re still going to be working on that into 2019. But we’re fortunate enough to hire 10 very competent, very intelligent, very well trained guys.”
Chambers noted that all the hard work veteran staff have done this year should also be acknowledged.
“This is a fantastic group of firefighters that serve this community. They’re highly dedicated, highly trained, come to work every day with a great attitude and I know they can always be depended on,” lauded Chambers. “Our fire prevention guys have also worked very hard to maximize fire code within the community and minimize false alarms,” Chambers also added.
In the coming year HFD will be looking at replacing some decade old equipment and other capital expenses.
“The primary thing next year is we want to make sure we continue this high level of service to the community and make sure we are giving value to the community, “ said Chambers, “ 2018 was fantastic and I don’t expect anything different from 2019.”