In order to keep up with the city's growth and to keep itself in line with national standards, the Billings Fire Dept. is asking that the city build two new fire stations.
In a presentation to the City Council Monday night, Billing Fire Chief Bill Rash laid out the specific needs of his department, asking council members to consider the best way forward.
One station would go up on the West End, south of King Avenue West. The other would be built in the Heights. In order to staff the two new stations, the department would need to hire 27 additional firefighters.
Each station would require its own fire engine and the department would need additional battalion chiefs on the roster to manage them.
In all, the construction of the new firehouses and the purchase of two new fire engines along with a truck for the battalion chief would cost $5.3 million. An additional $2.1 million would be needed to hire the additional 27 firefighters.
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The national average for staffing is 1.34 firefighters per 1,000 residents. Billings currently has 0.86 firefighters per 1,000 residents.
Response times in the city also lagged behind the national average, which is roughly four minutes. Because of Billings' geography, the average response time for firefighters in town is just over seven minutes.
The two stations that Rash is proposing be built would help cut down on that response time, reduce the pressure on other stations and bring Billings in line with the national average for fire stations per residents. The city is currently two short.
The council decided it would take up the issue at a work session next month where they could talk in depth about the costs and how to pay for new stations should they decide to more forward.
It's likely the city would seek funds from voters through public safety mill levy; the last one that passed with voters was in 2004.