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Rural Fire District 1, City of Havre to continue fire suppression discussions through August

 

Last updated 8/11/2021 at 11:42am

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Rural Fire District 1 holds a meeting in the Hill County Courthouse Timmons Room Tuesday.

At Rural Fire District 1's monthly meeting yesterday, district board chair Steve Jamruszka said while there is no fire suppression agreement in place with the City of Havre at the moment, some progress has been made as the board was granted another extension through August.

Rural Fire District 1 is essentially a ring around Havre in which the Havre Fire Department previously provided fire suppression services.

The city last fall canceled the previous contract effective at the end of June to enable writing another contract which delegated responsibility for enforcing fire codes in the district.

The board and the city failed to reach a new agreement by the original July 1 deadline, leaving Rural Fire District 1 unprotected, at least on paper. After the deadline passed, Solomon gave an extension which would have run out July 15 but was first extended through the end of July.

Havre Mayor Tim Solomon, who was not at yesterday's meeting but has been at previous meetings, has said the city is asking for an updated agreement naming someone, whoever the board would like, to be responsible for fire code enforcement.

Fire code enforcement has been the main issue keeping a new agreement from being reached. The board had previously asked Solomon for more time to find an individual willing to fill the role and to get that person properly trained.

At Tuesday's meeting, Jamruszka said no one has been named to the fire code enforcement role. He said there is still a lot of coordination that needs to be done.

"The fire suppression agreement has narrowed a little from the standpoint that we talk about building inspections and those kinds of things. There are clarifications that still need to be made. So at this point, fire marshal's office still needs to be involved. And without approvals at that level for some of the things that we're talking about, coordination and that sort of thing needs to still be worked out," Jamruszka said during the meeting.

He said there is an agreement to use the 2012 edition of the International Fire Codes, which Jamruszka said the fire marshal has adopted.

Regarding getting someone trained to fill the fire code enforcement role, Jamruszka said he has found a course on the fire marshal website for training new people and he is looking into the matter.

"I have an inquiry there to find out when that training is or if it's online, and if it is that will certainly go a long way toward helping educate everything. So at this point, we're making progress. We're making some real progress, but we have not yet reached total agreement," he said.

At a previous meeting, board member Courtney Tait had asked for a one-year extension, with Solomon later agreeing to the July and now August extensions.

Jamruszka said Tuesdsay if enough progress is made regarding the fire suppression agreement, he would most certainly call a special meeting ahead of the board's next monthly meeting set for September 14 at 11 a.m. in the Timmons Room of the Hill County Courthouse.

When contacted by Havre Daily News for comment this morning about the ongoing discussions, Solomon said both parties' attorneys were communicating.

Solomon said what would happen if a new deal is not reached by the deadline and if the district would then use a private contractor is up to the board.

Solomon and Havre Fire Chief Mel Paulson previously said the Havre Fire Department still would respond to fires in the district if the agreement lapsed, but would then bill the district directly rather than operating under the agreement.

They later said that would not be the case due to liability for going into someone else's area without being authorized or invited.

Jamruszka said in July that the board is exploring options if the Havre Fire Department does not respond to fires in the district.

Havre Fire Chief Paulson has previously talked about the importance of meeting fire code and code enforcement, not just for the safety of civilian community members but also the safety of his firefighters. Buildings being up to code alleviates a liability.

He also said another impact of not having an agreement is that it could make some places uninsurable - not just that rates would go up, if no response was set, they could become completely uninsurable.

Tuesday the board also voted to remove Alan LaBuda and Bob Jacobsen after their repeated absences from board meetings, sending it to the Hill County Commission for a vote there.

A request from Clyde R. Thomas to have an acre of land removed from Rural Fire District 1 and put into the boundaries of the Bear Paw Volunteer Fire Department was approved. Jamruszka said the public comment period on the issue ended Aug. 8.

 

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