BIG SKY - On Tuesday, Gallatin County voters said 'yes' to a tax levy that would provide more staff at the Big Sky Fire Department.
The $485,000 levy would increase staff at the Big Sky Fire Department from 10 to 15 full time employees.
"I'm super excited. This is a huge success for us at the fire department," said Seth Barker, Big Sky Fire Department Captain. "It's a win-win for the community and it's going to help us be safer on the fire ground, both in ambulance operations and fire suppression."
Currently, the Big Sky Fire Department has 10 full time fire fighters and 17 volunteer fire fighters. In some cases, one person has had to respond to a call.
"The goal is to at least have four people available to respond to calls at any given time," said William Farhat, Fire Chief. "It allows us to respond safely and keep our people safe. We were having problems if the ambulance was gone with two people left, someone would have to go to calls by themselves. They were put in a bad situation by being asked to respond to emergencies by themselves."
The department can respond to calls of an area of up to 200 square miles out.
"Our location doesn't give us much of the way of mutual aid resources. We can't call the neighboring fire department and get large number of people to help us. We have to be self reliant," said Farhat. "An ambulance call takes us three hours long from time of call to the hospital and back."
Barker has been with the department for 12 years, and said the increase of staff was much needed.
"It's going to be a huge change for us," said Barker. "We went from having about 35 volunteer staff with just one paid member and now we're going to almost be at 13 members. It's going to dramatically affect our organization in a positive way."
The levy will cost each taxpayer about $15.21 per $100,000 home value. The tax increase will go into effect this November.