Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - As the vote approaches to increase funding for the Missoula City Fire Department, Missoula’s media were invited out to Fire Station Number Four on Latimor Street to observe live fire training.

I spoke with Assistant Chief Phillip Keating about the ‘live burns’ training on the three story tower.

Missoula Media Invited to See 'Live Burns' Training

“Typically this time of year we're out doing live burns in the burn tower doing our structural firefighter training and burning,” began Chief Keating. “Right now we have the crews rotating through for the whole month, every day we’ll be burning out at the burn tower at station four on Latimer. We set up different scenarios for the crews and give them opportunities, and we try and throw some curve balls. It's going to be primarily searches, familiarization with their gear, their crews, how to work together and just being in a dangerous environment.”

Keating said safety is always the top priority during any training exercise.

Assistant Chief Keating Emphasized the Importance of Safety at all Times

“Safety is always at the top of our priorities,” he said. “We're always looking out for our people; we're looking out for the citizens and the public. But always our utmost concern is safety. We always work together with a minimum of two-man teams. And then we also work on making sure everybody going into the burning tower is safe, as well as cleaning our gear afterward, making sure that we're getting all those cancerous particles off of our clothing so that we're safe down the road as well.”

Keating said Missoula city firefighters come from a variety of backgrounds.

“There's a couple of different avenues you can go,” he said. “We have people that started in the wildland arena. They became experienced in wildland and then cross-trained into the structural arena. We also had people start on EMS, and then you can also go to school for a fire science degree. There are  also a couple different programs in the state as well as becoming a resident with one of the volunteer departments.”

READ MORE: Missoula Council Votes to Put $7 Million Fire Levy on the Ballot

It's Been 16 Years Since the Fire Department Increased its Funding

The Missoula City Fire Department hasn’t had a budget increase since 2008, some 16 years ago. Missoula taxpayers are being asked to increase funding for the fire department through a Fire Services levy that will be on the ballot in June.

According to the city’s website on Engage Missoula.com, ‘the mill levy would fund fire and emergency services in the amount of 34 mills, raising approximately $7 million in the first year.’

At a recent Missoula City Council meeting, Missoula Fire Chief Gordy Hughes provided details about the proposed levy.

“If we pass a levy, approximately $46 per $100,000 of assessed value would be added to your tax bill,” began Chief Hughes. “However, more along the median range value of a house that cost $539,500 would have an assessed tax value of $189 a year (for the fire levy). That’s a small investment in my opinion, but I am the fire chief. I will put this hopefully to the voters to make the determination of where they want to spend their resources.’

Looking Back at One of Montana's Most Explosive Fires

The 2013 Lolo Creek Fire burned within 6 miles of Missoula

Gallery Credit: Dennis Bragg

More From Alt 95.7