Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) officials delivered a new wildland fire engine to the Stevensville Rural Fire Department last week as part of its ongoing County Co-op program. According to Area Manager for the Montana DNRC Southwestern Land Office Mike O’Herron, the program, in which wildland fire engines are stationed in counties around the state, was begun in 1967 when Meagher County received the first rig. The Etna Fire Station received its first wildland fire engine as part of the program in 1996. The program also provides training and help from specialists, including mechanics, when needed.
Regional DNRC mechanic Joe Wulfekuhler, who services about 155 vehicles in the region, was on hand for the delivery. He said the 1996 Chevy Type 6 engine that the fire station has used for the last 25 years was well used and well cared for. He said if the Stevensville Fire Department wanted to keep it they had the option. He said Beaverhead County had already expressed an interest in acquiring it.
Wulfekuhler said that the new Type 5 2019 Ford F-550 fire engine that was being delivered holds 500 gallons of water. That’s 300 more gallons than the old Chevy could hold.
“We are really proud to give this truck,” said Wulfekuhler. “You took care of the old one and it shows. We appreciate what you do.”
Stevensville Rural Fire Chief Rex Olson said that the wildland fire engines were not used as much when they first got one but with all the development that has occurred in the wildland/urban interface over the last few decades their use has increased dramatically.
The new rig will be kept in some new digs as well. The new Etna Fire House is only two years old and is located on Willoughby Road a short drive from the Eastside highway where the engines were previously housed in cramped quarters at Bell Crossing.
Olson said that he was glad to accept delivery of the vehicle, but that it was really Bill Anderson that should be accepting it.
“He just couldn’t be here today,” said Olson.
Area Manager Mike O’Herron said, “This new engine helps the County by increasing the capability of the Stevensville Fire Department to provide fire protection in the Bitterroot valley.” He said it was also an opportunity to remind property owners that they have a role in fire prevention and fire preparedness.
“Take a look at firesafemt.org to learn about preparing yourself and your property from wildfire,” he said.
A hand-out entitled “Fire in the ROOT” can be obtained at your local fire departments or through Bitterroot RC&D at www.bitterrootrcd.org.