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Missoula Rural Fire District sees surge in calls as population grows
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Missoula Rural Fire District sees surge in calls as population grows

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Canyon River Fire 1 (copy)

A firefighter with Missoula Rural Fire sprays water on a grass fire flaring up on the edge of Canyon River Golf Club in East Missoula in April. 

The Missoula Rural Fire District has seen a substantial surge in calls for service.

As of Sept. 4 last year, Missoula rural fire had received 1,896 calls. This year, 2,291 calls had been run by the same date, an increase of almost 20 percent, according to a news release.

The fire department attributes the uptick to an influx of people moving to the state, as well as more visitors passing through the Missoula area.

“As a result, MRFD’s firefighters have been working hard to keep up with the increased needs of the community,” the release said.

The department has been able to better service the surge in calls with the new staff positions they recently created as a result of the mill levy in 2019, Captain Eric Huleatt said.

The levy raised an additional $1.4 million in funding annually, which allowed the department to add 10 career firefighters. These are paid positions, a departure from the mostly volunteer force the department has relied on in the past, Huleatt said. There are still about 12 to 20 volunteer firefighters on the team at any given time.

The full-time staffers have allowed Missoula rural fire to provide quicker and more comprehensive service to communities in northwestern Montana, he said.

“This has been huge for us,” Huleatt said. “The levy allows us to provide better service to the Missoula community.”

Seven of the 10 firefighters hired as a result of the mill levy are advanced life support (ALS) positions, who are trained to do a bit more in terms of emergency response skills, he said. At least one ALS firefighter is now available to provide service 24/7, allowing the department to to better respond to crisis situations in rural areas when emergency medical services are needed.

The levy also ensures at least two paid, career firefighters are in Missoula rural fire stations around the clock. 

“MRFD would like to thank everyone who supported MRFD by passing the mill levy, allowing MRFD to hire additional firefighters,” the release said. “The support then and now is greatly appreciated as we work harder than ever to provide you with safe, reliable, and effective service.”

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