Havre Daily News
With the help of the federal government, all fire departments in Hill County will be able to talk to city, state and federal agencies statewide using the latest radio technology. A $270,000 U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant will pay for equipment that will include all the departments in a digital network.
"We'll be one of the few (counties) to go online shortly after law enforcement," Hill County disaster planning coordinator Ron Knudson said Wednesday.
Hill County is part of the Northern Tier Interoperability Project, one of 11 regions organizing to create a statewide digital network. All 11 regions will be patched together, with law enforcement generally using the network first, and then other services like fire and ambulance added later.
The grant will purchase 90 hand-held and truck radios for use by rural fire districts, the Hingham fire department and the Havre Fire Department, Knudson said.
In addition, the town of Hingham will receive $30,000 to purchase protective gear for its volunteer fire department. That gear, called self-contained breathing apparatus, helps firefighters breathe while fighting a structure fire, Hingham Mayor Ray Lipp said.
"It's a blessing to get it, and we're going to try to use it responsibly because all the departments have needs," Lipp said.
Chester received $25,000 for the same protective equipment.
"I'm so glad we got it," Hill County Commission chair Kathy Bessette said. "It's so great because radios are expensive."
The grant requires a 5 percent match each rural, town and city fire department will pay based on how much equipment each receives, Knudson said.
Havre Daily News reporter Angela Brandt contributed to this story.