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Malmstrom AFB fire department among the best in the Air Force

Malmstrom AFB fire department
Posted at 5:13 PM, Apr 28, 2022

MALMSTROM AFB — There are about 20 fire departments in the "small" category in the U.S. Air Force - but only one can be called the best among them.

The "Small Fire Department of the Year" award was recently awarded to Malmstrom for their service last year. It’s been 15 years since the last time they got the department of the year award.

A news release from the Department of Defense states:

Directed 57 members to 309 emergencies totaling 4,600 response hours, shielding 7,000 personnel and covering 14,000 square miles. During the performance period, the department battled a 14-hour blaze, the largest fire in community history, and avoided both citywide and regional hospital evacuations. The department was praised by the Governor of Montana for this achievement.

They say a major part of getting the award was a cliff rescue they conducted last year that saved two lives. Master Sergeant Anthony Fridley conducted the rescue and was also awarded the Firefighter Heroism Award for his efforts.

Assistant Chief of Operations Josh Wendell said he’s proud of his firefighters especially after last year’s fire season, including responding to the Gibson Flats Fire and several other large burns.

“It is a really good accomplishment. We have a lot of up-and-coming young guys that are really getting a taste of Montana. Fresh, brand new to being firefighters and here to our nuclear mission and being able to support the local community,” Wendell said. “It’s a big shot in the arm for us to kind of cap off a lot of good work that we did last year. Helping out the local areas on base and just supporting the community in general.”

“I absolutely enjoy it here. It’s a great time. I love the people we work with every day,” said Airman 1st Class Zach Wilbur. “I thought it was incredible. I read the email. We also got congratulated from our former chief. We had a few good milestones we hit before that, so we knew we had a pretty good shot at winning it. Overall, it’s a great accomplishment.”

Malmstrom Fire Department has about 45 firefighters right now but that’s not what determines their size.

Air Force fire department sizes are determined by how many trucks they operate daily. Malmstrom averages about one call per day, and their hard work certainly didn’t go unnoticed. 

Next: Malmstrom will go up against other small fire department from every branch of the military at the Department of Defense level.