Malmstrom fire department assists in local wildland fire response

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jacob M. Thompson
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
While Montana’s dry, warm summers provide a break from the often cold winters, it’s also a time when wildfires inflict disaster throughout the state. Confronting these fires regularly calls for a total force effort from various fire departments, including volunteer and military.

Recently, Airmen from the 341st Civil Engineer Squadron fire department responded to a wildland fire near Fort Shaw, Montana.

The flames originated from an individual who was working on a vehicle in a grass lot, according to Fort Shaw’s assistant fire chief.

Local fire departments were the first to arrive on scene to contain and suppress the fire, but when strong winds picked up, other agencies from surrounding areas were called in to provide support, including the Malmstrom AFB fire department. Aid came quickly from other neighboring fire departments, with towns such as Vaughn, Sand Coulee, Fairfield, Black Eagle and the Montana Air National Guard providing assistance.

The seven man team from Malmstrom provided suppression, resupply, and command and safety support to the fire response.

“Our brush engine was embedded with volunteer units to support suppression efforts, while our tender engine was assigned to resupply the main volunteer fire engine on scene.” said Staff Sgt. Aaron Theriault, 341st CES crew chief.

With a vast missile complex spanning more than 13,800 square miles, the Malmstrom fire department’s range of responsibility extends far beyond the gates of the base.

“Due to our unique mission at Malmstrom, we not only get to serve our base community, but also the Montana community,” said Tech. Sgt. Anthoney Williams, 341st CES station captain. “We never want fires to begin with, but in the event we are called to respond, it feels good to be a part of something so important and bigger than ourselves.”

Multiple mutual aid agreements allow Malmstrom to share personnel, equipment and supplies across the Montana community, enabling a strong partnership between the Air Force and local agencies.

“We have 49 mutual aid agreements throughout Montana, as well as established relationships with many volunteer departments,” added Theriault. “So whenever our community partners need our help or more resources, we’ll go and give them support.”

Working with Montana communities is important to ensure the base populace does their part to be good neighbors and keep relations strong.

“Building these relationships with our community partners is essential to our mission here at the fire station,” said Williams. “We not only provide each other support, but we train together, too. This partnership is important because lives depend on it.”

Since Malmstrom’s establishment in Great Falls during the 1940s, providing and receiving support from the community has proven imperative to the continued success of the base mission and ties with community partners.

“Malmstrom has been an integral part of the Great Falls community for more than 70 years,” said Chief Master Sgt. Ron Harper, 341st Missile Wing command chief. “Supporting local fire departments in putting out the Fort Shaw fire is one of many examples of our wonderful working relationship with the community and we hope it continues well into the future.”