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With his biggest fight behind him, new fire chief Branden Stevens sets sights on Lockwood

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Posted at 6:00 PM, Feb 26, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-26 20:03:43-05

BILLINGS- It’s been roughly three months since Branden Stevens started as fire chief for Lockwood Fire District, but already he's got a proven track record.

Stevens says the day applications opened for the chief position in Lockwood, he drove all the way from Miles City to be the first to turn in his application, bright and early that morning.

“I wanted to board to know and the department that I was all in,” he said.

He knew it was a position he wanted.

“It’s been a joy. Everybody’s been great,” he said. “I wanted to be in Lockwood. I wanted to be at this department.”

For Stevens, timing is everything after he wrapped up a productive two-decade career in Miles City.

In fact, being in Lockwood is a much different scenario than the last time MTN News interviewed him, when he was lobbying for a levy to build a new fire station in Miles City.

“Getting that fire station was the fight of my life,” said Stevens.

For years, the Miles City fire station sat unlivable, unstable, and virtually falling apart. Stevens told us last year, that when the wind blows hard in Miles City or when the snow piles up, they’re forced to move apparatus out of the station for fear of collapse.

“People in Miles City deserve a department that is ready to go and capable of responding to emergencies,” he said in a 2023 interview.

Stevens, who’s been championing change for years, was successful when voters said yes to paying for and building a new fire station with a $3.9 million bond.

“It was hard to leave,” he said. “I put 23 years in Miles City.”

Perhaps it was a sigh of relief for Stevens, with that hard-fought battle down, he set sights on Lockwood.

“When that timing happens, you have to jump at it, and I knew this was the place for me,” he said.

This time, his goals are different because Lockwood is different.

At a time when the area is experiencing what’s known as “hyper growth,” Stevens knows he must plan for that while keeping the community safe.

He says on tap for Lockwood is a large training center to be built in the future, next to where the current station sits allowing fire departments from all over the state to come and train.

He is also working to build a strategic planning document known as a "standard of care," which will help Lockwood understand ways to improve, as there’s a new high school and an industrial corridor to look after.

“Whether that’s more employees, a second fire station, having highly trained firefighters is vital to keeping this community safe,” he said.

Stevens plans to confront Lockwood’s own specific issues with careful planning and consideration.

“I am just glad to be here.”