East Missoula fire chief says goodbye, leaves legacy

Zoe Buchli

This Monday will bring a change in speed for Justin Shaffer.

After 16 years serving on the East Missoula Rural Fire District team, Shaffer is putting away his gear and resigning as fire chief. Friday was his last shift.

“It’s bittersweet,” Shaffer said of his decision to resign. “This is something that’s been part of my life for a long time.”

Shaffer got started with East Missoula Fire in June 2006. In 2008, the fire department had five employees and often missed calls for service. There was a possibility of it being dissolved and absorbed into the Missoula City Fire Department, but Shaffer, along with two others, volunteered to lead the department.

He was 23 at the time.

“Our department kept getting smaller and smaller,” he said. “We were that department that was missing callings.”

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He said the department could give him six months, and if things weren’t improving, they could close it. 

“And six months turned into, well, here we are today,” he said.

Shaffer’s top priority going into the position was never missing a call.

“When someone called 911, we were here,” he said. “And it’s been that

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