By Alan Sorensen
More than 30 years of being constantly on alert for emergencies has given Havre Fire Chief Mike Badgley a heightened anticipation of retirement.
My first day I was an ambulance attendant by myself, Badgley said. And I drove the rural fire truck by myself. Id been in this town three months with the oil rigs and I didnt know the addresses.
As a result, Badgley took a keen interest in making sure that new firefighters wouldnt have to go through the confusion that he experienced.
It helped me do some map studying and help people I trained after that, so they didnt have to go through what I did.
The fact that all he knew about first aid was what he learned in Boot Camp to apply pressure to a bullet wound and stuff the hole with a sock if it was too big left Badgley ill prepared to deal with the trauma he encountered on ambulance calls.
It caused me a lot of grief, especially those with children, he said. I had some bad calls and I really didnt know what to do.
Then, in 1973, Havre had its first emergency medical technician (EMT) training. It was only the second such training in the state, Badgley said.
That helped me a great deal going on the ambulance, he said. I knew I could do things. I had felt lost about not being able to do some things for people.
Badgley, who kept his EMT status current until he became chief last year, said the EMT training helped him build a better role in life.
The amount of hours required to remain certified, I didnt have the time as chief to do that and to go on (ambulance) calls, Badgley said. Nor should a chief do that.
Badgley said he was heartened that the two bond issues floated during his 30 years with the department both met with voter approval.
They helped the department tremendously, Badgley said. The last one provided more and better equipment because of the thought that was put into it.
That bond issue, proposed by Badgleys immediate predecessor, Chief Jerry Benbrooks, provided the department with two new ambulances, one fire truck, and a quantity of support equipment.
Badgley said that higher requirements in the 1970s forced the department to expand from 13 to 19 men. Shifts went from three to four firefighters, including ambulance crews, which doubled from one to two by law.
That was a real good force for this community, for running this department and safeguarding this community, Badgley said. Then we lost three firefighters due to the economy and ended up getting one back a few years ago. Im disappointed that we didnt get back to 19.
Badgley also expressed disappointment at his failure to get city council approval for a third ambulance. Until 1990, the department had been using a county ambulance parked at the Havre City-Council Airport. When there was transfer out of town, it would be moved to the fire department. That still left two ambulances at the fire department available for emergency calls.
I know we have public support and am grateful, Badgley said. Were like the military constantly preparing for war. We jump on a situation and handle it as quickly and efficiently as possible, but we cant be compared to any other job out there.
As emergency services, Badgley said, safety for the firefighters and EMTs must come first so they can continue to do their jobs.
Today, firefighters work shift rotations of 24 hours on and 72 hours off. And throughout the year, they undergo training, refresher courses, physical fitness routines, equipment checks, and waiting for the calls that come day and night.
You go from checking equipment to instantly going on a fire or ambulance call, Badgley said. Your roles just change 180 degrees.
You go from being normal to a high intensity situation, which in itself is hard on your system. Youre always waiting for the call. I have a great deal of pride in our guys.
Badgley said all of the firefighters are EMTs and that more than half of them are qualified to give IVs.
It takes hundreds of hours to get (EMT-Defibrillator and EMT-Intravenous) and to remain certified.
Havres firefighters complete numerous hours of training annually, frequently attending their training during their own time. Badgley gives incoming Fire Chief Craig Ellingson credit with upgrading Havres EMT response capabilities.
Craig has been very instrumental in getting our service to where it is, Badgley said.
Badgley retires as the last firefighter to have worked at the fire hall in the old City Hall at the corner of First Street and Fourth Avenue.
I am very grateful for having the opportunity to serve as the chief, he said.