Grave mistake for rural fire board to create volunteer department

| May 20, 2020 1:00 AM

If you live outside the city and generally inside the Whitefish School District, your fire protection is currently provided by the city of Whitefish, through a contract between Whitefish Fire Service Area and the City of Whitefish.

As a property owner in the WFSA area, you should have received two letters in the past few weeks concerning the possible change to the current contract with WFSA and the City of Whitefish. As a former firefighter for a number of years in Santa Barbara County, California, I feel qualified to speak to this issue. The WFSA board is proposing to possibly go their own way, proposing an all-volunteer fire service with a paid fire chief. This would be a grave mistake, if this were to occur. There are several reasons why this would not be advisable.

Training is, I believe, the most important attribute that a paid professional firefighter receives each and every shift they work, that’s what you need and want in an emergency situation. A well-trained professional.

Response time is critical to each emergency call responded to. Currently Whitefish responds in less than 2 minutes, out the door, 24/7, 365 days a year. You simply cannot get that with a volunteer service.

Cost to the community is something that will continue to grow over time. It will grow at a much faster rate as a single entity. Having to purchase and maintain trucks, various other vehicles, equipment, building maintenance and salaries. We will not come close to the current $144.00 a year we pay to WFSA.

This proposal will not change the ambulance service that we are all lucky enough to have.

I live in the Northwoods area of Whitefish. I do not want to wait for firefighters to come all the way from Whitefish Stage and Hodgson Roads (20 to 30 minutes from my home) in the event of an emergency.

I hope you will send an email to the WFSA board at jdyonwfsa@gmail.com or letter to WFSA, PO Box 1311, Whitefish, MT 59937, prior to June 1.

Please do that today and help maintain our high quality of professional fire service we all currently enjoy.

Ed Meek, Whitefish