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Anaconda Fire Department struggling with staff shortage, more calls for service

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Posted at 10:26 AM, Feb 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-29 12:26:58-05

ANACONDA — It’s pretty cramped conditions at the Anaconda Fire Department, which handles both fire protection and ambulance services, and staff say they are dealing with a major lack of manpower and yet increased call volume.

“Call volume has risen over 68 percent since 2007, so to have the same number of people with just such a massive influx is a problem,” said Anaconda Firefighter and Local 100 President Loy Bink.

The department has nine members, the lowest amount in 17 years, and Anaconda Firefighters Local 100 wants people to encourage elected officials to support hiring more. The department recently went on a structure fire call that at first reported someone was trapped inside.

“And we’re heading out the door with three people. So, for our safety and the public safety, that’s not a lot of people to get the job done,” said Bink.

Fortunately, no one was trapped in the fire and no injuries were reported. The department reported over 1,300 calls last year and the average staff member had well over 300 hours of overtime. This is taxing on morale.

“A lot of times people don’t feel like they have days off, and we’re a pretty close-knit family down here, and you go do something and miss events that happen, it feels like you’re letting people down here because they don’t have the help they need,” Bink said.

Anaconda Chief Executive Bill Everett said the city has been in arbitration with the firefighter’s union for about nine months and wanted to talk to his legal team before commenting on issues related to the department.

The department also said their building is too small and in need of better ventilation. There is only one room for sleeping quarters, and the department's only female firefighter must sleep in the same room with male staff.

“Our current female firefighter is great and has a good attitude about it as best she can, but we don’t feel it’s fair to put her in that situation and she deserves better,” said Bink.

After our story aired, Anaconda-Deer Lodge County issued a response that can be read in full below: