Libby Volunteer Fire Department will soon purchase much-needed new radio equipment thanks to a $15,000 Montana Wildfire Relief Fund grant — the largest individual grant recently issued by the fund, which the Montana Community Foundation and Montana Television Network established in September 2017 following the state’s highly active wildfire season.
More than $600,000 was awarded in two grant cycles to 81 organizations, most of which were rural fire departments that, like Libby’s, will use the money to purchase safety gear or other equipment.
“The small handheld radios we currently use just don’t have enough range to cover our area,” said LVFD Fire Chief Tom Wood, who was notified of the award last week. “Our area is 29 square miles, so with the mountains, etc., we just don’t have good reception. Many times the Sheriff Office dispatch can’t copy us.”
The department is soliciting bids for radios that use Bluetooth technology, Wood said.
“(With Bluetooth), we can talk from the scene and it will go to our mobile (truck) radios to transmit,” he said. “The truck radios have 100 to 125 watts and cover a much larger area than the 5 watts put out by handhelds. This makes things safer for our operations.”
Wood said the department needs to order the radios and submit the bill for reimbursement within six months.
According to a Montana Community Foundation news release, other organizations that provided relief to wildfire victims or that are located in communities that suffered structural or economic losses will also receive funding.
“Long-term, (the Foundation) has plans to establish a permanent, non-endowed fund dedicated to disaster relief in Montana,” the news release states. “This fund will provide a mechanism for donors to give money in support of future disaster relief and worthy organizations to receive funding in support of disaster relief efforts.”
The Foundation was established in 1988, manages approximately $100 million in assets and administers more than 900 philanthropic funds and planned gifts, according to the news release. The minimum grant amount in these two cycles was $600.
Other Lincoln County grantees include West Kootenai Fire Protection Company, Eureka Chamber of Commerce, Bull Lake Rural Fire District and the Trego, Fortine, Stryker Volunteer Fire Department.