KALISPELL — Since June, Fire Station 62 in north Kalispell has seen temporary shutdowns due to what firefighters say is a lack of proper staffing.
“Not having a fire station delays response to that area, that’s the reason fire stations are placed where they are as to minimize how quickly we can respond to an incident,” said Kalispell Firefighters Union President Don Thibert.
Thibert said the city had 31 full-time firefighters in 2010, with only 28 now, despite the city’s increase in population over that time.
He said Kalispell firefighters are working on bare minimum crews and have put in more than 2,000 hours in overtime since January 1.
“Being a destination place for tourists and that sort of thing just increases our call volume exponentially in the summertime as well,” said Thibert.
Thibert says firefighters are asking the City of Kalispell for additional funding to hire new firefighters immediately.
He says Kalispell firefighters are expected to respond to 4,000 calls this year.
"Having fewer firefighters to respond to even more calls just results in more physical and mental fatigue for the firefighters that we work with,” said Thibert.
Thibert says Fire Station 62 will continue to see closures if staffing needs are not addressed.
Documents show the City of Kalispell has added $170,000 for additional fire personnel to the 2021 budget.
Requests for comments from city officials were unanswered by the time of publishing.