HELENA, Mont.,- Voters approved a levy, which would give firefighters their first pay raise in more than two decades. Our Bliss Zechman sat down with a few of the firemen who say they're excited to stop fighting for funds and instead fight fires.
"This wasn't a want, this was a need for the community. And now they'll see the fruits of that come up,” said Mark Emert, Helena’s Fire Chief.
Currently the fire department does not meet most national regulations because of funding. Many calls for help were delayed or couldn't be responded to at all. Now, all that changes.
"It’s going to have some real impacts. The citizens of Helena really deserve a quality fire department and when they dial 911 someone should show up,” said Firefighter Dave Maslowski.
The department is now able to hire six more firefighters, which will put two more guys on every shift.
They'll also be able to get up to date equipment. It may not seem like these changes will make a huge impact, but having more boots on the ground makes all the difference.
"We can affect real change. If we're there in two minutes versus four minutes the probability of saving a life is so much higher,” said Maslowski.
Not only do firefighters hose down burning buildings, they also serve as EMT’s to help save citizens with life-threatening health conditions.
"The fire department is a fantastic force of men and women that are doing great work and we want to make sure that they can keep doing that work," said Heather O’Laughlin, City of Helena Commissioner.
Newly elected Commissioner Heather O'Laughlin campaigned for this levy while she was running for office. The city commission will look at its mills later on this summer and find other resources, like federal grants that will help leverage these dollars.
"We’re amazingly excited. The opportunities that we have now to serve this commuity is so much better than it was yesterday,” said O’Laughlin.
The department is already working on hiring additional firefighters. This week, there is a firefighter testing consortium going on in Great Falls, so the Helena Fire Department a chance to see the best of the best in action.