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Bismarck volunteers find out firefighters stick together

BISMARCK – Volunteers at the Bismarck Rural Fire Department are finding that firefighters stick together when a firefighter, or even an entire department, needs help.

When Bismarck Rural Fire Department made a plea to the public for financial help, David Pratte, the chief of the Big River Fire Department at the northern end of the county, started making some phone calls to area departments.

Pratte called all the departments in the county to see if they would be willing to help the Bismarck department, which was expected to finish the year $6,000 in the red.

Pratte said each department will be bringing manpower and a piece of fire equipment from their department to help with a boot drive on Saturday.

The fire trucks will be located at various businesses and intersections in Bismarck. They will be selling fire tags to rural residents and collecting donations.

The department got permission from the city government to have a boot drive at city intersections just for that one day.

Pratte said he hopes the community will help in any way they can.

“If you haven’t bought a fire tag, please buy one,” he said.

Fire tags are $45 and are always due on Jan. 1. The late fee is $10 after Feb. 1.

Deputy Chief Chris Gibbons, who has been a volunteer firefighter for Bismarck for 20 years, said the offer to help made him think of the 1991 movie, “Backdraft.”

Gibbons explained in the movie, actor, Kurt Russell told his men when they were in trouble in a fire, “You go. We go.” He said that powerful phrase became the phrase firefighters used when another was in trouble to show that other firefighters would always be there.

Gibbons said firefighters from Iron and Washington counties, Air Evac and the St. Francois County Ambulance District have also volunteered to help out that day.

Another fund-raiser for the department will be a car wash at the fire department Aug. 27, beginning at 8 a.m.

In addition, donations can be dropped off at First Bank in Bismarck. They have already received some donations from the community.

Gibbons said Madison Franklin, 9, of Park Hills, donated the $37 she collected from her lemonade stand to the fire department.

He said the fact that a 9-year-old girl from another city would do this for people she does not know and for a fire department coverage area she does not live in is just marvelous.

He said her donation was just $7.63 less than what a fire tag would cost a rural resident.

Gibbons said they also received help from former mayor, Dennis Mayberry. He said Mayberry provided the help and the firefighters purchased the parts needed to get the rescue truck back in service.

Goose Creek Fire Department donated a 1990 GMC utility truck to help out the department.

They are still having problems with their tanker. He said they may have to take it out of service next week due to what they believe are transmission problems.

While the city department and the rural department share the same building and have the same volunteer firefighters, they have two different budgets.

The fire department receives about $10,000 from city funds to pay for the city’s one fire truck and the building, as well as utilities for the building.

The rural department relies strictly on fire tags to keep their trucks on the road. Charlie Crawford, president of the rural department’s board of directors, said this year they received $18,000 from selling just over 400 fire tags. In past years, they have sold about 1,000 fire tags.

This year, they expect to spend $11,500 on a truck payment, $8,100 on insurance, $2,400 on fuel and $2,000 in maintenance.

Residents aren’t required to purchase fire tags. However, the benefit of the fire tag is that residents would not have to pay the department’s fee of $100 for just responding and $500 an hour for every hour they spend fighting the fire.

The department can cut down on emergency medical calls. That’s because state statute requires fire departments to respond to fires, but they are not required to respond to emergency medical calls.

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