HELENA – Lewis and Clark County Commissioners voted Thursday to move forward with plans to expand the York Fire Service Area.
York Fire had asked the county for permission to annex an area that is north of their current service area and south of the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness.
The area is currently served by the Lewis and Clark County Volunteer Fire Department, but Lewis and Clark Fire Chief Walter Jester and York Fire-Rescue Chief John Naylor both agreed the area would be better served by York Fire. Naylor explained to the commission that the annexation makes sense because York Fire is much closer to the area, meaning their response times are quicker than Lewis and Clark.
“It just makes sense. We’re providing a better service than having Lewis and Clark County driving through Helena, Tri–Lakes Fire Service Area and then out through York,” Naylor said. “It’s probably going to save an hour worth of time just trying to get to the incident.”
According to Lewis and Clark County officials, 83 percent of tax payers said they were in favor of being annexed into the York Fire Service Area. Half of the land being annexed into the area is owned by federal and state agencies. Commissioner Andy Hunthausen said the decision to annex makes “all the sense in the world.”
Lewis and Clark Fire will still be available to provide mutual aid on calls if necessary.
Residents and landowners in the area still have the option to protest the decision. In the coming weeks, the county will vote once again whether to approve the annexation. If approved, the fire service area will be expanded 60 days after approval.