BISMARCK — The recent procurement of a pumper truck and fire fighting equipment, as well as a trained team of volunteer firefighters, were put on public display for the media Saturday by members of the Bismarck Fire Protection District Board.
The fire protection district showed off its new equipment and personnel in preparation for a Friday afternoon court date at the St. Francois County Courthouse where it hopes to have overturned a temporary restraining order filed against it last month by members of the Bismarck Rural Fire Association.
The association sought legal action in December to stop the district from taking over responsibility for providing fire protection for a 150-square-mile area encompassing the city of Bismarck, Iron Mountain Lake and portions of Iron and Washington counties.
The Bismarck Rural Fire Association Board said they requested the restraining order in response to the district board’s announcement that, as of Jan. 1, 2012, its intention to begin providing emergency services, fire, rescue, brushfire, first response to medical emergencies and other emergencies as requested to the residents within the district.
The temporary order currently restricts the fire protection district from selling fire tags or taking part in any other fundraising activities that would interfere with the association’s providing of fire protection services. It further restrains the district from stopping the association from selling fire tags, taking part in fundraising activities or hindering it from providing emergency services to Bismarck’s rural community.
Fire Chief Steve Dickey and members of the rural fire association board said in December that the district’s stated intention to take over fire protection duties from them was irresponsible as the district had no fire truck, equipment, station house or funding with which to adequately perform the job of protecting the citizenry.
In answer to the rural fire association’s charges, the fire protection district board purchased a 1969 Hahn pumper truck for $3,000 from the Caledonia Fire Department.
“The fire district has received a number of donations from members of the community who want to see us be successful,” said district board president Betty Jellinek. “We have been offered donations from people to offset the cost of fuel, dispatching and truck insurance, too. We’ve received cash donations in large and small amounts. Within two weeks we had all the money we needed to buy the truck.”
John Jellinek, owner of Bismarck Tire Co., told the Daily Journal that the district’s fire truck would be stored indoors at his business until the restraining order is lifted and a suitable location for a fire station is found.
“When we get the OK, we’ll be ready to go,” he said.
Board Treasurer Chris Gibbons said the district’s fire fighting and emergency response equipment, such as a Jaws of Life and assorted medical equipment, had been largely donated from the surplus supplies of fellow fire protection districts and fire departments within the state of Missouri.
“The support we’ve received from other fire districts and departments has been incredible,” he said.
According to Gibbons, additional equipment is also awaiting pick up by the fire protection district from out of state.
District Fire Chief Mike Gibbons said there have been approximately 20 to 25 trained firefighters who have volunteered to work with the fire protection district so far. Many of them, he said, formerly worked as volunteers with the rural fire association. He added that volunteers for the district not only have training as firefighters, but some also have HAZMAT, SCUBA, RN and paramedic training.
In addition to its new equipment and volunteers, Treasurer Gibbons said the district has placed a 32 cent tax levy on the April 3 ballot to provide financing for the fire district’s ongoing operation. While several previous attempts to pass fire district tax levies have failed, Gibbons believes this time will be different.
“This is the lowest tax levy for the fire protection district that has ever been requested,” he explained. “We figure that for the average property owner, it will cost less than purchasing a fire tag. Also, those paying the tax levy will be able to take the amount off their income taxes.”
As another means of raising funds, the fire protection district is planning an event at the Westside Banquet Room in Bismarck on Feb. 11, that will feature a barbecue dinner, auction, 8-ball pool tournament and a dance featuring a live band.
“We hope people will come out and support us in this fundraising effort,” said President Jellinek. “We also hope people and businesses will donate items for the auction, too.”
She said the district board is making every attempt to prove to both local residents and the court that it is serious about doing whatever is necessary to provide outstanding fire and emergency protection to those living within its area of responsibility.
Meanwhile, Treasurer Gibbons says the district board is following the court’s order that the two parties work together for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
“We are really wanting that,” he said. “We want to resolve this situation between the fire protection district and the rural association for the best of everyone involved. I’m very proud of the firefighters with the city and rural departments. Everyone has put in a lot of hard work and dedication. I can’t wait until we all become one agency and can provide the best services possible for our great community.”
For more information about the Feb. 11 fundraiser or to make donations of cash or auction items to the fire protection district, call 754-6200.
Kevin R. Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 114 or at email@example.com.