By Alan Sorensen
Havres firefightrers celebrated Fire Prevention Week, The Great Escape, this week with an open house and giveaways, medical and firefighting demonstrations, and in-school visits.
In two months, firefighters will celebrate their departments 94th anniversary just three weeks before the turn of the century and the beginning of a new millennium.
The Havre Volunteer Fire Department was created on Dec. 13, 1905, just 11 months after the Jan. 14, 1904 fire destroyed most of downtown Havre.
The Havre Fire Department became a professional fire department with 10 paid firefighters in 1922. It has remained a professional department for the last 77 years. Today it boasts 15 highly qualified firefighters and two rookies.
The great fire of 1904 razed all of the buildings in a five-block area of what is still downtown Havre.
That first fire department had next to no equipment, relying on horse-drawn carts, buckets and hose reels. Motorized vehicles were first purchased in 1917 to transport men, supplies, and a small quantity of water. In 1919, an American LaFrance Pumper was purchased to help modernize the department.
We are now in the process of refurbishing this same 1919 LaFrance Pumper and (intend to) house it at the Heritage Center and Clack Museum, Fire Chief Craig Ellingson said.
Numerous volunteers manned the fire department from its inception, with George Dewar becoming chief in 1914. Dewar served as chief until Nov. 1, 1938.
The department eventually added a 1931 Studebaker as a service vehicle. In 1948 and 1952, the city purchased a 750 gallon per minute (gpm) American LaFrance pumper.
The fire department became the Havre Fire and Ambulance Department in 1955. Its first ambulance was a 1955 Cadillac purchased through the Bear Paw Post No. 497 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, along with donations from many area residents.
A $125,000 bond issue, passed in 1973, was used to purchase a 1973 1,000 gpm elevating platform called the snorkel and a 1973 1,000 gpm pumper. The department also used the bond funds to purchase a 1954 6x6 military vehicle for rural fires. All three vehicles are still in operation today.
Havre voters again approved a bond issue, this time for $490,000 in 1990. Those funds were used to completely overhaul the fire and ambulance department and bring them up to 1990 standards, Ellingson said.
Added to the departments arsenal were a 1990 1,500 gpm Pierce Dash, two 1991 Ford type 3 ambulances, 3,600 feet of large diameter hose, two semi automatic defibrillators, a 12 cubic foot per minute breathing air compressor system, 17 self-contained breathing apparatuses, Jaws of Life extrication equipment, and various quantities of nozzles, hose and tools.
Property taxes arent as high as they would be because the fire department generates a certain amount of revenue through its ambulance service. The Havre Fire Departments ambulance service generates more than $100,000 in revenues each year.
What Havre residents and those people living in Fire District One pay in taxes to support the department is offset by the reduced cost of their fire insurance premiums.
Now the fire department needs two new ambulances.
The city has allowed the departments to put a portion of their budgets at the end of the year in Capital Improvement Purchase funds, Chief Ellingson said.
The department now has $162,000 in its ambulance replacement CIP fund.
I will be working closely with the mayor and city council on replacing our aging ambulances which are now pushing 10 years old, Ellingson said. I would like to purchase a new 2000 model at a cost of $88,000.
Ellingson said another $58,000 could be used to mount a new 2000 chassis on one of the 1991 ambulances. I would keep the best 1991 for a third ambulance to use as a backup, which is critical at times when we have back-to-back calls, one ambulance down due to repairs or servicing, or if an out-of-town transfer were to happen.
The total cost of approximately $146,000 would leave about $16,000 in the CIP fund for future vehicle replacement. Ellingson said that seed money would help relieve the department from asking voters for a bond issue in the future.
The bond issue that was approved by voters in 1991 will expire on July 1, 2006.
What the city has done allowing the departments to have CIP funds will benefit the Havre taxpayers greatly, Ellingson said.
The next major purchase, which is still a few years away, Ellingson said, will likely be a rural grass-fire truck. A quality grass-fire truck would cost the department about $60,000, he said.
Two new probationary firefighters joined the department after the retirements of Chief Mike Badgley and Capt. Jim Kase within the past two months. Badgley had been with the department for 30 years and Kase was a Havre firefighter for 23 years.
The probationary firefighters are Joe Lamphier, a 1985 Havre High School graduate, and Tim Evens, who resigned after seven years and two months with the Havre Police Department to take the firefighting job.
Lamphier, whod been a custodian at Montana State University-Northern, has enjoyed his 3-weeks with the department. He said he applied so Id have a career instead of just another job.
Hes stayed busy studying and getting to know his way around the department since his hiring.
Theres lots to learn, he said. Theres a lot we need to know.
What does he like best about being a probationary firefighter and emergency medical technician? Everything. Its a great career.
Other promotions created by the two retirements saw Craig Ellingson promoted from assistant chief to chief and Dave Sheppard from captain to assistant fire chief. Joe Parenteau and Tim Ranes were promoted from engineers to captains, and Bob Bergren and Dave Krezelak were promoted from firefighters first class to engineers.
Other personnel with the Havre Fire Department are: Capt. Bob Keeler, Capt. Mike Anderson, Eng. Todd Solomon, Eng. Tim Hedges,and firefighters first class Ken Hanson, Al Forsman, Jack Trethewey, Mel Paulson and Kelly Jones.
Five of the firefighters are EMT-Defibrillator certified, which is two steps below paramedics, and 10 are EMT-Intermediate certified, just one step beneath paramedics.
Lamphier and Evens are First Responder Ambulance certified. They next step for them is EMT-Basic.
Between the fire service and EMS (emergency medical services), firefighters get well over 100 hours of training a year, Assistant Fire Chief Dave Sheppard said.
Sheppard, who also serves as training officer for the department, said those 100 hours of training are comprised of continuing education and recertification courses EMTs and firefighters must take even after theyve reached certification. Attaining the minimum firefighter and EMT certification, he said, requires about 300 hours of instruction. Thats something Evens and Lamphier have to look forward to as they begin training for their FF1 and EMT-Basic status.
The types of training and classes that department personnel must attend to attain FF3 and EMT-I certification, Sheppard said, is longer than his arm.
Chief Ellingson said wellness is a top priority for the firefighters, too. A completely outfitted wellness center in the city hall basement contains weights and a number of exercise devices.
Its a complete wellness program that includes stretching, muscle toning, and cardiovascular exercise, Ellingson said.
The local firefighters purchased the equipment and set it up downstairs, but the wellness center is intended for all city employees, Ellingson said.
The wellness center helps firefighters stay healthy and fit for their often stressful and physically taxing work. They are required to meet NFPA 1500 standards of fitness and also must pass an annual physical required by OSHA.
To become certified firefighters, candidates also must pass a hiring fitness test modeled after the nationally standardized Combat Challenge. The fitness program uses job-specific tests that reflect the actual work environment of firefighters. Candidates are required to carry weighted life-like mannequins specified distances, crawl in and out of tight spaces, run through obstacle courses in full firefighting regalia.
Sara Sieglock is the departments morning secretary and Dixie Gloyne is the afternoon secretary.
We are here to serve our customers, the citizens of Havre and surrounding community, Ellingson said.
The department averages 200 fire and 800 ambulance calls per year. Its fire protection area covers 37.5 square miles and the ambulance service provides life-saving response to a 2,280-square-mile area.
The Havre Fire Department also has entered into mutual aid agreements with several nearby volunteer fire departments. Those departments serving their various communities and their telephone numbers are:
Bear Paw at 395-4500; Box Elder at 352-4300, Chinook at 357-2500, Fire District #1 at 265-7554, Gildford at 376-3100, Hingham at 397-3100, Inverness at 292-3856, Kremlin at 372-3100, Rocky Boy at 395-4513, Rudyard at 355-4100, St. Joe at 398-5323, and Wildhorse at 394-2230.
Other area fire departments include: Fort Belknap at 353-2205, Harlem at 353-2642, Dodson at 383-9991, Malta at 654-1234, Chester at 759-7151, and Big Sandy at 378-2210.
The 911 emergency number will reach most fire departments, too.