Andy Drobeck

I am writing to urge the citizens of Missoula to support the Missoula City Fire Department mill levy on the June 4th ballot.

Missoula is growing. Not only has our population increased dramatically, but so has the geographic size of our community. The number of calls to the fire department has doubled since 2008, and yet we have not added a single fire position in the past 16 years. You can see how this poses a serious threat to the safety of our city. Despite their unwavering support and commitment, our firefighters are stretched thin, responding to multiple emergencies simultaneously and facing delays in response times.

On some of the worst days of our lives, the Missoula Fire Department is on the scene. Our dedicated team is on the scene for fires, car accidents, medical emergencies, and rescues. Nearly everyone will need them at some point, and when we need them, we need them fast.

Unfortunately, due to inadequate staffing levels, response times in Missoula are well below the standards set by the National Fire Protection Agency. In an emergency where seconds matter, delays result in outcomes that harm our community members. It is also hard on our firefighters. No one wants to be short-staffed at work, but for firefighters, it poses unique challenges. Every 30 seconds, fires double in size, and survivability from a heart attack reduces with every moment that goes by. We want our crews on the scene fast so they can save lives and structures before it’s too late.

The passage of this mill levy will add 20 Missoula City Firefighters to staff an additional Engine Company, with an added Fire Station within the growing Missoula City limits. This increase will ensure quicker response times to emergencies, reduce the risk of property damage, and, most importantly, save lives.

This mill levy will also provide permanent funding for the Mobile Support Team [MST]. The MST is a response model that pairs an EMT with a mental health clinician to provide the appropriate care to people experiencing urgent mental health crises. This response model diverts hundreds of people every year from hospitals, jails, and shelters and eases the burden on emergency rooms and first responders while offering a trauma-informed approach to patients.

Not only can they help de-escalate situations, but they also follow up with individuals in crisis to connect them to the services they need to find and maintain stability in their lives. The MST is an important part of emergency medical services that saves our community valuable resources and takes a modern and caring approach to supporting our community members.

This mill levy is an investment in the safety of our growing number of citizens. Missoula needs a fire department that serves the Missoula we are now. Whether it’s responding to fires, medical emergencies, rescues, crises, or disasters, our Missoula City Firefighters need to be appropriately resourced to respond promptly and successfully when the citizens of the City of Missoula are in need.

As the Missoula City Firefighters Local 271 Union President, a 16-year firefighter myself, father of two, husband, and resident of Missoula, I deeply value the safety and well-being of our community and believe this levy is crucial to ensuring our firefighters have the resources necessary to respond in a timely, efficient, and effective manner.

Please help us continue this critical lifesaving work by voting YES on June 4th and passing the Missoula City Fire Levy.

Andrew Drobeck is the Missoula Firefighters Local #271 Union President