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Elks disperse funds to volunteer fire departments

by Lake County Leader
| May 9, 2024 12:00 AM

Gail Nelson, Exalted Ruler of Mission Valley Elks Lodge 1695, was on the road this spring, dispersing checks to four rural fire departments to help them purchase critical equipment.

The effort is part of the Montana State Elks Association’s State Major Project, which invites rural volunteer fire departments to submit grant applications annually by Dec. 31.

According to information on the Elks website, 8,000 volunteer firefighters serve in Montana’s 380-plus rural fire departments, which respond to emergencies in small towns across the state. An estimated 72% of these incidents involve providing emergency medical services and responding to fires, weather events, explosions and other hazardous situations.

During his rounds, Nelson presented $1,805 to St. Ignatius Rural Fire; $1,150 to Chief Cliff Rural Fire; $1,045 to Polson Rural Fire; and $624 to the Charlo-Moiese Volunteer Fire Department. Funds came from donations from members and Elks lodges across Montana, as well as a grant from Elks National Foundation.

Captain Keifer Clark of the St. Ignatius Volunteer Fire Department said the $1,805 donation will purchase new crash gloves, used to extricate a victim from an automobile accident, and Nomex hoods for the 20-member team. Any leftover funds will help replace aging bunker gloves, used to provide hand protection when firefighters work in or near a structural fire, and buy new headlamps.

“We are very thankful for this donation,” he said.

Chief Joel Fuhrmann of the Charlo-Moiese Volunteer Fire Department said the Elks check for $624 will buy a set of boots for a new member. Firefighting gear is expensive, he notes, adding that the department just spent $5,900 to buy two new sets of gear to fight structure fires – an investment he strives to make every year.

“Every dollar we receive in grants helps us utilize our very small budget efficiently,” he adds.

Chief Will Woodger of the Polson Rural Fire District said his department plans to spend the donation of $1,045 on new headlamps for structure fires. The Polson RFD has 36 firefighters on its roster, based out of four stations that cover roughly 200 square miles. Woodger says plans are in the works to build a fifth station near Rocky Point and Kings Point roads.

Volunteer fire departments make up more than 80% of all Montana fire departments, which is 13% higher than the national average.

    Chief Will Woodger of the Polson Rural Fire District appreciated the infusion his department received recently from Elks, represented by Gail Nelson. (Courtesy photo)
 
 
    Joel Fuhrmann, chief of the Charlo-Moiese Fire Department, receives a check from Gail Nelson of the Mission Valley Elks Lodge.