SHERIDAN — The Goose Valley Fire Department is celebrating its five-year anniversary and welcoming members of the public to its open house April 6 from 9-11 a.m.
The open house will be held at the department’s building at 2617 Aero Loop in the airport business park. Visitors can tour the facilities, see equipment and talk with the firefighters.
“We just want everybody to take a look at how far we’ve come in a short period of time and see what we have for equipment and all the stuff we train on,” said Chief Bob Williams, about the open house. “And let everybody know that we are here for anybody that needs help.”
The fire department began to take shape in the fall of 2006. On Nov. 7 of that year, voters approved the formation of the Sheridan Area Rural Fire Protection District and financially supported it with three mill levies.
The Sheridan County Commission initially appointed Randy Rowland, Pete Masters and Chuck Simon to serve on the district board. All three members have since been re-elected by district voters and still serve on the board as chairman, secretary and treasurer, respectively.
On April 3, 2008, the Sheridan Area Rural Fire Protection District was incorporated with 20 charter members. The fire department took the call name Goose Valley Fire to avoid confusion with other surrounding Sheridan fire departments.
The department began as and remains an all-volunteer force. Close to 30 members make significant donations of time to respond to calls and commit to weekly training. Many of them have volunteered or had careers fighting fire with other private, county, state or federal firefighting entities.
The department began responding to wildland and vehicle fires, vehicle accidents and calls for medical assistance on July 1, 2008, and expanded to take calls for structure fires on Jan. 1, 2009.
Within the department, members have various experience levels including Firefighter I and II certification, Fire Officer I and II certification and Wildland Fire and Advanced Wildland Fire certification.
In addition to fire training, many of the members also have medical training. Eight members are first-responder certified, nine are EMT-Basic certified, four are EMT- Intermediate certified and two are paramedic certified. Six other members have medical training in CPR, first aid and wilderness first aid.
“We train every Thursday,” explained Williams. “And then we do a few Saturday trainings during the year too. We train a lot! We do search and rescue, last week we did emergency vehicle driving, we do fire suppression training, ropes and ladders, vehicle extrication training and a lot of medical training.”
“It’s pretty substantial,” he continued, about the time donated by volunteer members for training and response to calls.
“People have to make the minimum number of trainings and make a minimum number of calls,” Williams said. “I would say that on the average most of the guys, just on training, probably put in 100 hours a year.”
The district roughly covers north of Sheridan to the Montana state line, west of Sheridan to the base of the Big Horn Mountains and east of Sheridan to Jim Creek Hill. The coverage area is approximately 240 square miles of Sheridan County, including 15 miles of Interstate 90. In addition to its designated coverage area, the department provides mutual aid (when requested) to other rural area fire departments and is also automatically dispatched along with Sheridan Fire- Rescue for any structure fire within Sheridan.
While many people think fire departments only deal with burning structures or property, Williams said medical calls are actually a primary responsibility for the department.
“We’re first responders for medical calls, so we run a lot of medical calls,” he said. “But obviously, last year was a pretty busy wildland fire season.”
Demand for the department’s services has increased dramatically in recent years. In 2009, the department responded to 117 calls. In 2012, the number of calls almost doubled to 215. More information about the department can be found at www.sheridanruralfire.com.