(HELENA) Lewis and Clark County leaders are moving forward with a proposal to increase the size of the Birdseye Rural Fire District.
County commissioners are considering whether to transfer about 100 properties – west of Birdseye around the Skelly Gulch Road area – from the Lewis and Clark County Fire Service Area to the Birdseye fire district. Leaders say both fire departments are supporting the change.
Supporters say the Birdseye fire station is closer to Skelly Gulch, so Birdseye firefighters will be able to respond much more quickly.
“The quicker fire emergency response is able to get on those fires, the better,” said Commissioner Jim McCormick. “This is doing that – improving the overall safety footprint for that particular area – and Birdseye Fire is willing to do this.”
The affected area includes some undeveloped parcels and some single-family homes. More than 40 percent of the property owners in the area have already signed on in support of the change.
This is the second time this year the commission has expanded the boundaries of a rural fire department’s service area. They voted last month to transfer large areas around the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness from the Lewis and Clark County Fire Service Area to the York Fire Service Area.
The Lewis and Clark County FSA includes all unincorporated areas in the county that are not included in another rural fire district or fire service area. Commissioners say Lewis and Clark Fire Chief Wally Jester has been working to find places where they can improve service by putting those areas under the jurisdiction of another department.
“This wasn’t just cooked up; this was something these guys have worked on for a long time.” said Commissioner Susan Good Geise. “They’re willing to take on the responsibility, and it’s going to make a lot more sense for those more rural areas, so that you’re not actually passing through different jurisdictions to get to the one that needs to be protected.”
The commission set a public hearing on the proposed change for July 9.