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Whitefish Fire Service Area proposes separation from city

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Posted at 5:32 PM, May 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-18 21:31:30-04

WHITEFISH — The Whitefish Fire Service Area is discussing a separation from the Whitefish Fire Department because of proposed rate increases.

In a letter sent out to fire service area homeowners, the rural district proposes the option of establishing a volunteer fire department.

The letter says the district needs 10-to-15 volunteers and a paid fire chief and further states that the rural district has sufficient reserve funds on hand to pay for start-up costs.

The Whitefish Fire Department covers the rural district service area which amounts to 40% of their fire calls on a yearly basis. A five-year agreement between Whitefish fire and the rural district expires in June of 2021.

A new five-year agreement proposed by the city of Whitefish would see an immediate $20,000 increase to the first semi-annual payment in the new contract, followed by a 2.25% increase for each of the subsequent semi-annual payments, resulting in the final year payment totaling $426,157 in 2026.

Whitefish Fire Chief Joe Page says his department has 15 full-time firefighters and eight volunteers on a 24-hour cycle. He says a split in service may result in slower emergency response times for those in need.

“And response time is the key to all emergencies, nothing gets better with time I keep saying, if you’re having a heart attack, or all fires start small, if you can get there and catch them when they’re small things are always much better,” said Page.

Whitefish Fire Service Area board members will discuss the proposed separation during their board meeting Tuesday night. The meeting gets underway at 6:30 p.m. at the fire station off Hodgson Road.