BELT — Being a volunteer firefighter can be a rewarding and valuable way to help the community, and in Montana, those volunteers serve in both rural and urban areas.
Travis Johnson has served for the Belt Rural Fire District for 27 years, making him the longest active service member in the Belt community.
"It's quite an opportunity to give back to the community first off, but it's really a way of life," he said. "You get to help your neighbors, help people just passing through, you get to see a lot of everything."
He added, "I've gotten to experience pretty much all the roles at this point in my career here. I enjoy the people and the commodore in the group. I mean, who doesn't like to play with big trucks? There's just so many cool things about the fire industry."
Firefighting runs in the Johnson family. His dad worked for years as a fireman and is continuing his service. His brother also serves as a firefighter as well.
It's not just the passion for firefighting. Sense of community in a small-town environment is what drives many volunteer firefighters to help others.
Luke Holzheimer with the Sand Coulee Volunteer Fire Department said, "Volunteer fire departments are very important in a rural community. When you call 911, you expect help, and that's what our guys do."
For volunteers like Johnson, having deep roots in a small town community also plays a major role.
"Being from here and raised here, having businesses here. It's just a joy to give back to the community," he noted. "When the community is in need, you get to be there to help. I'm just not sure there's a better experience in helping somebody in need. I would definitely say it impacts you for the good overall. It's a huge commitment. It's a lifestyle."
To learn more about becoming a volunteer, call your nearest fire department or visit MTVolunteer.org.