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New Fire Training Center Makes Community Safer

MILES CITY, Mont. – Miles City Fire and Rescue (MCFR) crews will no longer have to travel across the state to access specialized fire and rescue training opportunities, thanks to a new Fire Training Center completed in late 2018. The training facility will allow MCFR crews to simulate live fires, helping improve firefighting skills and the treatment of burn victims, and is expected to draw crews from across Eastern Montana. The new training center is located on a one-acre site directly behind the fire station at 2800 Main St. in downtown Miles City.

A ribbon-cutting for the new Fire Training Center will be held 2-3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, with opening address by MCFR Chief Branden Stevens and remarks by a representative of U.S. Sen. Jon Tester. Tours of the facility will be available and, weather permitting, a live demonstration will be conducted.

Miles City Fire and Rescue responds to over 1,500 calls per year for fire protection, emergency medical service and community service, and employs 14 full-time and up to 20 part-time employees. Battalion Chief Mike Miller said he has felt a pressing need to create a better local training facility that would not only increase the crew’s access to specialized skills, but also save the city money.

“This new center is a critical training ground that will allow us to serve counties across Eastern Montana. We’re currently the only department in the region, aside from Billings, that does specialized rescue like ice and swiftwater rescue. But we’re having to send crews out as far as Missoula to train for this. The classes take four days, and then we have to account for an extra two days for travel,” Miller said. “The new facility will allow us to bring credentialed instructors in for on-site training, for less than half the cost of sending our crews out. It saves the city money, and it will expand the scope of service we’re able to provide to this community, and others.”

Miller also said the benefits of a training center will be immediate: “Previously, when we got new firefighters, we had to train in the parking lot. For many, until they attended specialized training elsewhere, the first time they saw heated/dangerous conditions was on a live fire, which can be very unpredictable. The training center will enable us to create live-fire simulations, so crew members can see what it looks like, they can feel the heat, the low visibility, understand what happens when they apply water – these kinds of things are virtually impossible to simulate without a dedicated training facility.”

Miller said he worked with city officials to explore several financing options for the new $250,000 Fire Training Center, including grants, a mill levy and recruiting local businesses for financial support. In the end, he obtained a long-term, low-interest loan from MoFi, a nonprofit community lender that provides financing to businesses and projects including community facilities.

MoFi used its Community Facilities Relending Program, a program launched in 2016 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that is designed to invest in and improve the quality of life in rural communities. The program allows approved partners like MoFi to provide low-interest loans to nonprofits and public bodies in communities of less than 20,000 people, and funds can be used to purchase, construct or improve essential community facilities, including health care centers, schools, town halls, child care centers and more.

“Rural communities face an uphill climb when it comes to accessing the financial resources they need to grow,” said MoFi President Dave Glaser. “We couldn’t be more excited to partner with the USDA to support Miles City Fire and Rescue on a project that will benefit not only the people of this community, but those across Eastern Montana as well.”

The new training center was constructed by Fire Training Structures LLC, a Phoenix, Arizona-based company that builds custom training structures made from ISO freight containers.

To find out more about Miles City Fire and Rescue, visit http://www.milescityfirerescue.com.

To find out more about the MoFi’s long-term, low-interest Community Facilities Relending Program, visit https://www.mofi.org/business-financing/community-facilities-loans/.