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Billings City Council moves forward on new Heights fire station

Posted at 6:27 PM, Sep 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-27 20:27:51-04

The Billings City Council has approved plans for a new fire station in the Heights, one that will house the city's first mobile response team focused on medical calls.

The Council approved pursuing the purchase of a new building on Monday night. The Billings Fire Department has already set aside $2 million in its 2023 budget for the purchase.

The building at 760 Lake Elmo Dr. was fire station number six until 1988, when the city built a new fire station on St. Andrews Drive.

An opportunity came up, and now the plan is to make this fire station number eight.

Billings' newest fire station may look like many others at first glance, but the double bay garage houses much more than traditional fire trucks.

Fire Station eight will be the base for the city's first mobile medical response team.

"Takes a little bit pressure off the whole system," said Billings Fire Chief Pepper Valdez. "So this is good not only for the Heights, but it's good for the whole community."

Two-person crews will respond to medical calls not in fire trucks, but in Ford Explorers similar to the Billings police cars.

"A majority of the Heights calls are still taking place in the southern end, and so it fills a gap," he said.

Valdez said the data supports this new approach.

The program is expected to free up engine crews for other types of calls and decrease response times.

Medical calls in Billings have recently skyrocketed, and firefighters say a traditional fire truck is often not necessary.

"That takes the pressure, the call volume off our engine crews," said Valdez.

The chief says calls are projected to decline about 11% in the city, but not in the Heights, where medicals calls are expected to increase.

Those in the nearby neighborhood support the new program and the new fire station.

"Having one across the street you can't get any better and got a fire hydrant right here," said William Troast, a Heights resident. "So that's always good, you know, keeps down insurance costs."

"I think it would help with their response times," said Lu Cook, A Bibs To Books Daycare helper. "But in our case at a daycare, if something goes off at nap time, we're going to have all these kids awake."

Since this was once a fire station, remodeling the building will save the city money. The total project is expected to cost just over $1 million, compared to it an estimated $4 million to $7 million for a brand new station.

One mobile response team is expected to be up and running at the new station by Dec. 1.

A second team will start at a west end station next year.

"We have an opportunity to take this old building, shine it up and make the people of the Hudson and all of Billings proud of this," Valdez said.