Sunday, June 20, 2021

Superior Fire District considers Tarkio annexation

Mineral Independent | June 9, 2021 12:00 AM

There are 374,000 house fires a year or 1,024 home fires nationwide every day.

Emergency response times are longer in rural areas due to longer travel distances. Additionally, fires may burn longer before being noticed in rural areas due to lower population densities.

With three different rural fire districts in Mineral County along with the Frenchtown Fire District from about milemarker 60 on Interstate 90 east, the area is sparsely covered.

The three separate districts in the county are volunteer and they answer to a commission that governs each rural department. The county commissioners oversee everyone involved. It may sound like excess layers of administration, but they are tightly tuned, and communication is strong.

Steve Temple, Superior Volunteer Fire Department Chief, was approached by some residents east of town on the possibility of their area being annexed into the Superior Rural Fire District and what that might entail.

As neighbors, they already have some of their own firefighting equipment and other resources to offer as a dialog has commenced and fire hall and water source sites are being investigated.

The area in discussion for annexation into the Superior Rural Fire District would be the majority of privately held lands in the Tarkio area. Forest Grove to the Tarkio Launch where it bumps into the Frenchtown Rural Fire District for a seamless boundary. Then north to the Fold of the Messiah and all of the residences circling Round Mountain.

Abut 20 parcels of property with 33 different owners that could benefit.

“And when I say benefit, that is obviously a reduction in response time,” said Temple at the May meeting with the five commissioners.

At the table were Mineral County Fire Marshall Mary Jo Lommen, Rural Fire District Commissioners Dan Faller, Ken Quitt, Carl Metcalf, Dan Arnson and Dave Asay.

Naturally, there will be plenty of hoops to jump through but more importantly, collaboration and cooperation with the residents in the area and those living on the fringe. (The fringe is outside the five-mile driving radius of the location of the water source and the fire hall).

Captain Scott Dodd, SVFD, feels this is a logical and necessary move.

“For this area, it takes us 25 minutes to respond from the fire station in Superior. That’s a conservative number as 40 minutes is common,” he said.

Another component to make this a successful venture will be helpers. The Tarkio Rural Station is going to need additional volunteers who live in the area to step up and become firefighters as this will be under the umbrella of the SVFD with on-going testing, training and teamwork.

What will this annexation do to the property taxes?

“If you pay $1,000 a year in taxes, they will increase by $16. It’s a very small rate yet some may prefer to opt out and that is their prerogative. They are given the choice. Those living in the fringe may want to be annexed in and that is an option we can discuss, too,” Temple said.

An open house/town hall meeting is being organized to answer questions directly and gather input from those in the area.

A mailing will be sent soon and postings around town will advertise the date, time and location for anyone who would care to attend.