Helena Fire Department review details lengthy response times, understaffing

Nolan Lister

A third-party review of the Helena Fire Department further illustrated the city’s need for a third fire station.

The study, conducted by Oregon-based firm Emergency Services Consulting International, resulted in a more than 300-page report and long-range master plan for the local fire department. The city spent nearly $65,000 in fiscal year 2022 for the services.

The study revealed the city is taking too long to respond to emergencies and sending too few people.

“You’re a little bit shy on what we would call an effective response force for your base risk fire, which would be a 2,000-square-foot single story family dwelling,” ESCI Project Manager and Senior Consultant Sheldon Gilbert told the city commissioners during their April 6 meeting.

Of all the calls received, HFD has a response time of about 12 minutes, including call processing, 90% of the time and is only able to send seven to nine people, according to the report.

The consultants recommended lowering response times to under 8.5 minutes and upping staffing levels to allow for a response of 14 to 16 people to better align HFD with national standards.

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