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Hamilton outgrows historic fire station

Hamilton Volunteer Fire Department in 1907
Posted at 6:38 PM, Apr 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-09 13:39:05-04

HAMILTON — It was there when you were born, when your kids were born, even your grandkids.

It’s the downtown Hamilton Fire Station, and it might just be the oldest yet most active resident of Hamilton, Montana.

“The current fire station was built in 1907 to serve the fire department,” recalled Hamilton Volunteer fire chief Brad Mohn. “At that time, they had two barn doors on the front of the building that the horse-drawn fire wagons came out of.”

“So, Hamilton, we're at that point we need a new fire hall,” said Mayor Dominic Farrenkopf.

Citizens and city leaders alike know one thing to be true – Hamilton is changing. That means emergency services will need to change too.

“Oh my, the town has changed dramatically in the years since I've come,” confirmed Hamilton resident Liz Young.

The corner of Fox Field and Skeels is the site of Hamilton’s up and coming fire station.

Chief Mohn told MTN News that the need for this change is a matter of size, setting, and safety.

“Over the years, we've had to special order fire trucks to get them to fit inside the base because of the size constraints we have in the current fire station,” explained Mohn.

Its location downtown also isn’t doing it any favors.

“When volunteers respond, it looks like a bomb went off because there are cars parked on the sidewalk or wherever they can park to get into the building and get the trucks going,” said Mohn.

He’s also concerned with the carcinogens.

Modern fire stations have hot and cold zones to keep harmful chemicals on equipment in one place and firefighters in another place.

Mohn said, “That's impossible to deal with at the old station.”

That leaves Hamilton’s 29 volunteer firefighters at a higher risk for cancer, and that makes the $5.4 million price tag of a new facility justifiable to city leaders.

“We want to give them the environment and the tools so they can do their job safely and effectively,” said Farrenkopf.

Through the city’s general fund, a grant from the state, and the board of investments, the new station will break ground in August and be operating by fall of 2023.

“It's going to be much safer,” explained Farrenkopf. “The volunteers will respond, and then they'll have a place to park their vehicle, and they'll be able to respond north, south, east, and west in a much safer fashion than when you're putting a fire engine onto a city street.”

247 Fox Field Street may be the ideal location for the fire department, but it's also a residential neighborhood. The Willow Court Apartments are just a stone's throw away. Luckily, for the manager, duty outweighs disruption every time.

“I think they really thought this through very well, and they’re being a good neighbor,” said Liz Young. “You know, we need their services. You have to give them space and let them do their jobs, so we're very pleased.”

Mayor Farrenkopf said he hopes the community will contribute in covering the soft costs of the new facility, which should tally $150,000 for items like desks, beds, and chairs. His department plans to send out a mailing with details for donations.


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