Standoff Between Rural Fire 1 and Havre Continues, But Deadline Extended

HAVRE, Mont. (NMB) – It’s been nearly one month since the fire suppression agreement between the City of Havre and the Rural Fire 1 has expired, and both sides appear to remain at odds.

However, the City of Havre has decided to continue to respond to calls in the District through August 30th as negotiations continue.

Arleen Rice is the President of Hi-Line Chemical, which sits inside the fire district. She was at the last District Board meeting and told New Media Broadcasters on Friday that she remains frustrated at the lack of progress towards a deal.

“They need to absolutely have an agreement in place. To not have anything decided since the beginning of the month is pretty unacceptable in my eyes.”

Rice says she the impasse is putting scores of people and businesses in limbo.

“We just need to come up with a working agreement. Just to leave the members of Rural District 1 out there in limbo, I think if most of the members that live in Rural District 1 were aware that there is going to be an expiring agreement happening today, I think it would alarm them. Especially with the extremely high risk that we have currently with the drought. So when I call 911, I don’t want the first call to be from the Fire Department to the Rural Fire Departments, which are amazing and good, (asking) ‘are you guys going to respond, or should we respond,’ or have an argument about who should respond. I’ve been assured by the Fire Department that they will respond immediately, but I don’t know what direction they will be forced if they are supposed to be making that phone call. In a fire, you don’t have time for that phone call. So I just think there needs to be a working agreement.”

According to the City, if an agreement is not reached or the deadline is not extended: starting on September 1st, 911 calls to dispatch from Rural Fire 1 will be referred back to Rural Fire 1. At that point, options the District has could request mutual aid or using a private contractor.

Board Chair Steven Jamruszka says that Rural Fire 1 is still working on a plan for how to respond to fires if the deadline passes without a deal.

The point of contention remains enforcement of fire codes, as the City believes it is up to Hill County to enforce fire codes in Rural Fire District 1, while the District Board says it is out of their hands due to Montana Code.

The next Rural Fire District 1 Board meeting is scheduled for 11 AM on Tuesday, August 10th in the Timmons Room of the Hill County Courthouse.

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