By Andi Bourne

Seeley Fire District Adds 2011 Polaris Ranger Crew to Fleet


SEELEY LAKE – The Seeley Lake Fire Board approved the shipping cost for the department to acquire a 2011 Polaris Ranger Crew. Seeley Lake Fire Chief Bob Vanden Heuvel feels this will expand the capabilities of the department to allow volunteers more mobility for event coverage and for assistance on wildland fires.

The vehicle is free through the Firefighter Property Program with the State of Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation program. However, the district is responsible for the $1,850 shipping.

Vanden Heuvel notified the board on Wednesday about the opportunity. Receiving no response from the board, he made the decision to accept the offer by the Thursday afternoon deadline. Vanden Heuvel gave the board several reasons why he accepted the offer:

• The machine is in good condition, only needing a few repairs including a new battery.

• The district can sell the machine after one year if it doesn’t work out to have it. After talking with Kurt’s Polaris, Vanden Heuvel said they could sell it for $5,000 to $6,000.

• It would be great for on-site emergency medical service (EMS) as needed for summer and winter events. It has the ability to carry jump kits, backboards, C-spine (neck) immobilization gear, Automated External Defibrillator (AED), communications and personnel.

• It allows for quick access to patients during events. Specific events include Fourth of July parade and fireworks, Bob Marshall Music Festival, Snow Joke Half Marathon, Pond Hockey, fishing tournaments, biathlon and triathlon events. Football games would be another good venue to use the vehicle.

• Improves EMS response capabilities during the tourist season.

• It is an excellent public relations opportunity.

• Can be used during wildland fire activities being contracted out to the state and federal fire agencies bringing income back to the district. Can also be used as a shuttle rig for personnel and supplies on wildland fires. It could make $250 per day to transport firefighters on wildland fires.

“I think we are enhancing the capabilities here. We are doing a good job of getting a good fleet of stuff and it is at a good cost,” said Vanden Heuvel.

Fire Captain Shawn Ellinghouse told the board that he worked the ambulance Saturday night of the Bob Marshall Music Festival last summer. Rocky Mountain Adventure Gear donated the use of a Razor for the event because one of the volunteers worked for RMAG.

“It was nice to know that my ambulance was not committed to [basic medical needs]. You have thousands of people sitting in one area and nothing ever goes perfectly,” said Ellinghouse. “As Bob said our population is growing on the Fourth of July. It would be good to have people driving around giving out water, talking to people; someone could flag an EMT down. Something like this can weave in and out of the crowd, can help the public and they don’t have to call 9-1-1, they can just flag someone down. [$1850] to spend for something like this is a no brainer.”

Board member Gary Lewis pointed out that Vanden Heuvel does not have the authority to spend more than $1,000 without board approval. Vanden Heuvel said he gave the board as much notice as he could but he had to make a decision in 24 hours.

Vanden Heuvel explained his four-step decision making process to the board. His four questions include creating a safer environment for the volunteers; enhance and increase the capabilities of the department; benefit to the taxpayer; potential to bring in additional revenue to the department.

Board member Scott Kennedy recommended that he add another line item to his process: Are the funds allocated for the project?

Board member Connie Clark asked how much it would cost to outfit the Ranger so it was ready to use. Vanden Heuvel said he didn’t know total cost but indicated he talked with Kurt’s Polaris and they are willing to help as much as they can.

The board approved the purchase of the vehicle. Lewis abstained from the vote.

The board will discuss ideas on how to better handle future 24-hour decisions at their next meeting Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. at the Seeley Lake Fire Hall. The complete agenda will be posted at prior to the meeting.


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