MISSOULA — Along with a funding request to expand the mobile crisis team, the Missoula Fire Department is also looking to the future as parts of the city grow and hundreds of new residential units come online.
On Wednesday, Fire Chief Jeff Brandt presented the department’s FY22 budget request to members of the City Council. This year’s requests include $96,000 to grow the city’s mobile crisis unit and $450,000 for a land purchase to place a new fire station in the Mullan BUILD area.
The station would be the city’s sixth.
“This will be coming to reality as we look out at our Mullan BUILD area,” said Brandt. “We’re looking at that geographical challenge we have and our response time and how many people we can get.”
The city’s Fire Master Plan has eyed a new fire station dating back to at least 2006. The need has become more dire as the city and county invest nearly $20 million to place infrastructure in the Mullan area to guide current and future growth.
The region will be home to nearly 10,000 new residents over the coming years and hundreds of new homes. Some of that new construction is already underway in a number of subdivisions.
Brandt said the fire department has identified an ideal parcel at the future intersections of George Elmar Drive and England Boulevard. The five-acre property would cost around $450,000 and could include a collaboration between fire, Missoula Water, and Parks and Recreation, according to Brandt.
It would take roughly 16 new firefighters to staff the new station.
“We’ve not solidified that purchase yet,” Brandt said. “But we’ve had great communication with (city administration) and it looks very good for our response units and where we’re falling short in those outer areas.”
While Missoula fire looks to a new station, it’s also dealing with a growing number of calls. Through July, Brandt said the department’s call volume has increased 16% over last year.
What’s more, he said, just 18 months ago the department had duel calls going on just 32.6% of the time. That has now increased to 44%.
Though the new fire department isn’t yet funded in this year’s budget, Chief Administrative Officer Dale Bickell said the city is looking at funding opportunities while it explores one-time needs paid for by revenue from the latest stimulus package passed by Congress.
Of that, the city will receive around $13 million.
“It’s not to say those other items that fire and these other departments are going to ask for aren’t important,” Bickell said. “What we intend to do and continue to do, as more funding opportunities come in, things are going to change. We’ll look at all these things that are actually one-time in nature as we get a clearer picture of where we’re at.”