The Bear Paw Volunteer Fire Department crew has a reason to celebrate this week, and it’s not just because recent heavy rains have once again delayed the start of fire season this summer.
They have a new fire truck.
The new fire truck, a Ford F550 with a 500-gallon tank, was delivered last week, said Bear Paw VFD Fire Chief Josh Bebee, who took it the next day to Holden’s Hot Wheels where a light bar, radio, siren and a controller was installed. The truck was ready at the beginning of this week.
“I’d just like to give a great thanks to Holden’s Hot Wheels for helping us out and donating a bunch of time and materials to help us get it up and running, and doing it in a very timely manner so that we weren’t out a truck for very long,” Bebee said.
Sean Holden, owner of Holden’s Hot Wheels, said he was happy to help out.
As part of a mutual aid agreement with Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, DNRC provides fire trucks to rural county fire districts to be used to fight local fires. That DNRC agreement stipulates that the rural fire districts maintain the vehicles and that DNRC can request the use of the vehicles when the state is combating fires on state lands.
This isn’t the first truck Bear Paw VFD has received from DNRC, Bebee said. The fire department has had a fire truck on loan from DNRC for several years. The truck was reaching the end of its useful life as a reliable emergency response vehicle and was retired from use by DNRC officials, who inspects the vehicles annually.
“It was a 1980 Dodge pickup, and it was old, and it served its time,” Bebee said, adding that he’s grateful to DNRC for helping to ensure that the rural fire districts are equipped with these fire trucks.
But just because DNRC retired Bear Paw VFD’s older pickup from service doesn’t mean that it was automatically replaced, Bebee said.
“These trucks are actually given to the county, and then it’s kind of decided where they go from there,” Bebee said. “It could’ve ended up in a deal where if somebody else needed it worse than us, even though (DNRC) took that one back, (the county commissioners) could’ve put it somewhere else in the county.
“The way we work in this county and all the volunteer departments we have — the nine departments — everybody’s very good with working with each other so it was never an issue,” he said. “Those guys — the county commissioners and Joe Parenteau (Hill County Disaster and Emergency Services coordinator) — are a big help on keeping us up and running.”
Since Bear Paw VFD doesn’t have a fire hall, the truck will be kept at the home of one of the Bear Paw VFD crew members fully loaded with water while the temperatures stay above freezing, and ready for service.