Fresh Off The Press

Chief Dann Babcox


What are the things you have seen that influence your decision making/leadership role?


“My role as the Chief is first and foremost to keep the people in this department and the public safe.  Once the safety aspect has been mitigated I then look at preserving property and limiting additional damage from whatever incident we are responding to.  The things that influence my decisions are situational based and in smaller portions society and culture based.  Each incident and situation dictates the appropriate action.  With safety of the people considered first in every decision made, the rest usually falls into place.”


What do you recognize in volunteers?


“When a person applies to a volunteer organization it shows a desire to learn more about the agency.  Once the department leaders explain the qualifications and the complexities involved, the response of the volunteer shows us a lot about the person.  Usually a solid conversation gives us what we need to know about the person and if they are going to be able to fulfill the obligations for being a member of the department.”


What have you noticed that makes someone a good volunteer?


“Each person that applies for volunteer service is different in almost all aspects.  Beliefs, desires, motivation, skill sets, how they were raised, etc.  Each difference can either be a benefit or a deficiency depending on how the person presents themselves to each situation.  The main qualities I have noticed that end up making the best volunteers are unselfishness, compassion, integrity, and loyalty.  A physically and mentally healthy and strong individual are also traits that make it easier for success.”


What traits are most consistent in your workers?


“The traits most consistent in the volunteers for this District are safety orientation, pride in service, and compassion.  The men and women of this District show an unselfish desire to help those who are experiencing an emergency and usually very difficult situation.”


Why this line of work? What have you gained?


“I signed up to try a different approach to community service.  As soon as I was trained and saw the impact our service had on others, and with the self-pride I felt by responding and helping my community I became more and more motivated to keep going.  I chose to make this service a major part of my life and saw personal growth as a result.  Additionally I have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge about myself and people in general.  Every time I respond to an incident, even after 18 years of service, I learn something.” 

Scott Olson


Tell us about your experience in volunteer firefighting.


"I wear quite a few different hats, but I am fortunate in that I love them all. Currently, I am a full-time husband, father, police dispatcher, and pre-med student. In my spare time, I play at my happy place: the local fire department. I would credit my time as a firefighter as leading me into almost every aspect of my current life. I started at Park County Rural Fire as a cadet when I was 16. Me and my then 12-year-old brother joined at the same time. We both were hooked pretty quickly and I have spent the last 12 years in various departments. This includes 12 years on and off with Park County Rural, as well as 3 years with the Forest Service, and I currently spend a majority of my time with Livingston Fire and Rescue."


What made you decide to volunteer? Any specific events/influences? Why this department?


"I'm not sure what events transpired to make me want to join, but I know that it was a team effort between my brother and I. I remember both of us as young kids, working up at a ranch seeing a large forest fire burning up the side of the mountain and creating a massive plume of smoke over our heads.  Maybe that was the root of all of this, but in either case, we signed up together. We both rode our bikes down the local volunteer fire department, because that was the only one we knew of, and knocked on the door. One of the guys inside let us in, handed us a packet, and the rest is history. While the reason I joined is vague, the reason I stayed is simple: this job is fun. Later, I ended up joining the forest service, because getting paid to play is a no brainer. I eventually found my niche' in the world of medicine which led me to becoming a reserve on Livingston Fire and Rescue."


What do you feel you have gained through your service?


"That would be a very long list. I have gained confidence in every aspect, including gaining lifelong friends and experiences that helped me decide what career I wanted. I have seen country most people wish they could, spent time in exciting situations, and developed an appreciation for what other people do."


What are the greatest challenges you have faced? 


"Now's my chance to sound like a hero right? I wish. There are a lot of challenges, both good and bad. I think the greatest challenge I have faced is ego. Whether you have saved the day or not, the identity of a firefighter gives you a special place in the community. Your position comes with a lot of authority, responsibility, and privileges that most people don't have, and all of those can feed into personal pride. The inability to admit you're wrong is far from a faux pas: in this job, it can get someone killed. It is easy to see egotism in someone else, especially in the tight knit groups that make up the firefighting world. However, when you climb in the truck, you have to check your own attitude. I have been there, and I think most people who choose this career will be there too at some point. You just have to look in the mirror, recognize the problem, put on some humility, and carry on. On the plus side, when you look around at the incredible people that surround you, it’s not that hard."


What keeps you volunteering? What keeps you in this department specifically? 


"It is satisfying. That is the answer is a nutshell. That satisfaction comes from fulfilling a strong sense of purpose and having fun every single day. It's not for everyone, but it fits me well. Currently, I spend most of my time with Livingston Fire and Rescue because I like medicine. If I had to pick between fire and medical, I would choose medical every time. While Livingston Fire and Rescue covers the county for medical response, the fire response is limited to a 5 mile radius around the city. My time with Park County Rural Fire has been nearly the opposite. As a department, PCRFD does not provide ambulance services. However, the department covers most of the county for fires and vehicle extrication, which lends to more experience in those fields. For someone wanting to join a fire department, where you go depends on what you have a passion for and which departments actually offer that experience."

What advice would you give those interested in volunteering?


"Just do it. The only way you will know if you like it or not is by trying it out. It is not for everyone. It may not be for you, but you will only know if you try it out. If you're worried about your ability to do the job, go talk with someone that works at the station you’re interested in. Most of the time, the departments can use you in some way shape or form, but you won't know until you ask."


Rylie Roberts

Tell us about your fire experience?


"My name is Rylie Roberts. I am 21 years old and I was born and raised in Livingston, MT. I lived in Missoula, MT for two years to attend the University of Montana’s pre-medical program, with the intentions of becoming a nurse."


What made you decide to volunteer? Any specific events/influences?


"I joined my department in Livingston as a volunteer for a few reasons. I am a third generation woman on my department since my mother and my grandmother also volunteered and were PIO's when they were here. In their time volunteering, I was exposed to the emergency services world, including going to some of my mom’s EMT classes with her and spending time out at the station. When I moved back to Livingston, I decided that I wanted to volunteer because I have always thought so highly of the station and the job."


"I was also introduced to the college program at the station. Intrigued, I shadowed on some 6 PM-6 AM shifts and learned as much as I could from them. This is where I found my passion for firefighting. It is also what lead me to join the college program itself, which I am currently in. I am under a scholarship from the department. This means that they pay my tuition and provide housing, and in retur,n I work five 12-hour shifts a week and have duties and chores that I am responsible for doing everyday. I enjoy the schooling part of this as well. I am always excited to learn new things and go to class. The way we make the program work is really cool, the classes are essentially skyped in from the Helena College classroom into our training room here in the station."


What do you feel you have gained through your service?


"I have gained a lot since I joined last February. I would have to say I gained "pride, family, and a sense of purpose and community." I have accomplished a lot already. I just passed Firefighter 1, part of which involved a Big 7 Tactical Test that I am still proud of myself for passing after working so hard towards it."


"My station has become my second family that I am very grateful for. I also feel like I found a solid place in my community that I belong in and am a part of."


What are the greatest challenges you have faced?


"Challenges: I have had a few of them. The most obvious one I faced right away is the fact that I am a half-deaf, 5 foot 2 inches, 115 pound girl. It took some time to prove myself, but now that I have it has been smooth sailing."


"Having hearing aids since high school, I am very used to having to overcome odds and it is almost natural for me. But as far as my program goes, there was definitely a struggle finding balance and managing all the aspects of my life accordingly. On top of going to school and doing the five overnight shifts, I have also maintained a job at a restaurant in town. That does not leave a lot of time for friends and family, but over time and through trial and error, it gets easier. It gets tough sometimes, but this job and program are worth having to miss the fun sometimes."


What advice would you give those interested in volunteering?


"I highly recommend being a volunteer or joining this program. It is so rewarding in so many ways and it amazing to be part of something this incredible. It is hard to put into words. Even if you don't think you have the guts to run into a burning building, there is so much more you can do to help your local department: driving, operating the pump, etc. If anyone is thinking about doing this as a career, this program is a great one to use because you get so much training and hands on experience."


My name is Benjamin Barnard, I am 22 year old volunteer firefighter.

I was in 4th grade when my teacher told us about her husband, a hotshot in Washington state. She relived the story of how on 9/11, when all the flights across the nation were grounded, her husband and their crew were allowed to continue flying. I think there might have been some misinformation, but nonetheless it impacted me in ways I didn't even realize.

As I got older I continued to be influenced by different members of the fire service. I tried to get involved but being a minor made that hard. It wasn't until shortly after my 18th birthday that I met one of the local firefighters.

It was an amazing coincidence, he was standing outside and I simply asked “hey, you guys need any help?” The answer was a definite yes (as is the need with most rural departments) and I was put into contact with Chief Dan at Park County Rural Fire.

It was another 6 months before the recruit academy started. It was a tough month learning about fire behavior, fire suppression tactics, rescue, and department operations. However, the day we completed the recruit academy, I left with a sense of feeling that I can actually make a difference.

Over the next 4 years, I never could have anticipated what would happen. I grew tremendously not only in my knowledge of fire, but in who I am today. I joined a new family and started a constant battle of growth.

The fire service is challenging, and it pushed me to be the best I could be. If you have any interest in joining go online to, or just stop by and say hello.


The Montana State Fire Chiefs’ Association is a local fire association based in Montana. The association conducts itself with four terms: integrity, commitment, knowledge, and respect.

Integrity is defined as the quality of being honest and having strong morals. It is honorable, virtuous, and fair.

Those with integrity make conscious efforts to be truthful and to do what it right. They uphold their own beliefs and do so in a manner which honors themselves and those around them. Volunteers are no exception to these values. Men and women work hard and are sincere in their efforts.

Commitment is the state of being dedicated to a cause or an activity. It drives us, it keeps us focused, and it allows us to pursue the things that we want to do.

For volunteers, they envision a commitment to others, to their departments, and to their communities. Those who serve on fire squads or for EMS are committed to ensuring the safety of their neighbors, as well as the security of their towns and communities.

Knowledge is information that has been acquired through experience and education; it is a practical understanding that can be applied to new experience. Knowledge acquisition is the fuel that drives human life. It enables us to make advancements and be successful. Learning new material and techniques.

Volunteers learn through training or experience and apply what they know to situations in which their work is required. They learn tactical skills and response techniques so that they can be successful working in departments.

It is important that volunteers acquire knowledge about themselves, as it allows them to understand themselves and the ways in which they can be successful. Acquiring knowledge about other gives volunteers a way to successfully manage relationships, and to work more efficiently in departments.

Respect is regard for someone for their abilities, attributes, or achievements. Respect comes in several different forms. It could be respect for a cause, such as firefighting and EMS. It could be respect for a colleague or an employer, who you admire for their mentorship, capabilities, or their character. It could be respect for yourself, as you recognize your own achievements.

Respect is important for volunteers and allows men and women to work together more efficiently and more effectively.

It is no wonder that departments use these four basic tenants as the foundation for their work, and encourage their volunteers to exemplify these as well. Integrity, commitment, knowledge, and respect: these are what it takes to volunteer at your local department.

Do you have what it takes?

Park County Rural Fire District #1, located in Livingston, has maintained a college program that houses students and pays for their tuition. Chief Dann Babcox and his staff work with students to give them useful volunteer experience, while aiding them through school. The department partnered with Helena College, which offers courses in Fire Science. Students exchange their time serving in the department for college credit, and eventually receive an Associate’s Degree in Fire Science and Rescue. Their tuition and room and board are granted in exchange for five 12-hour shifts a week to the department.


There is a five bedroom apartment built into the department, as well as a full kitchen, living space, and pool table. Students do not pay rent or utilities, and can live on site through the entirety of the program. The apartment at the station originally housed single individuals, but over time, it became a place to house students going through the Park County education program. Students not only receive a college education at no cost, but also receive experience that can propel them into a career. Both Isaac Scansen and Paxton Fitzpatrick volunteered in the department, and are now paid employees at the Helena Fire Department.


Generally, one crew can handle the calls that come into the Park County station. Having volunteers readily available at the station aids in sending firefighters to a scene, as well as response time to a call. Response time used to be about twenty minutes, and depended on weather, time of day, and availability of officers. As the volunteer department acquired an increasing call volume, they made an addition to original department, and decided to provide a place for volunteers to stay. By housing students, the department can ensure that there will be an immediate response.


Chief Dann Babcox believes that the program that has been developed in Livingston will aid other departments, where small towns are getting bigger and more calls and responsibility for emergency services. It is feasible through budgeting within departments, as well as Grant Education Programs, who donate money for projects such as this one. In small communities, populations generally tend to be older. Younger generations are generally students, and are eager to move. Departments must give young people the incentive to stay. Although the volunteers may not stay long term, they improve departments and constant influx of volunteers may aid in the issue.


The average age for a volunteer fire/EMS in Montana is about 50-years-old. College programs allow younger volunteers to join departments. This generation is in need of instant gratification. They seek personal benefit in all that they do. This includes education acquisition, promotions, or monetary gain. This is a new generational thinking. Dann Babcox suggests that rather than opposing this inevitable change, departments should accommodate this thinking, and develop ways in which to collaborate.


The program aids both students, local colleges, departments, and citizens in the scope of who the volunteers directly serve.


Park County Rural Fire District 1 Education Program

What is your experience with volunteer firefighting?


“I am Jonathan Kimm, a born and raised farm kid from the Gallatin Valley.  Grew up knowing many of the local firefighters, including some family members as well.  I have been a member of Amsterdam Rural Fire for roughly two years now.”


What made you decide to volunteer? Any specific events/influences?


            “One of the firefighters I knew growing up, and worked with often, had tried to recruit me often coming out of college.  At the time, I had been going several different directions in life, and felt I didn’t have the time or interest.  I led a local youth group for a few years, and when I stopped doing that, I felt like I needed some new, fresh way to give back to the community.  I met with the same firefighter from before and signed up to join as both a firefighter and an EMT.”


Why did you chose to work in this department?


“I honestly didn’t even consider any other department, mostly because of location.  After two years working with our crew, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I have learned so much and made lifelong friends. I can’t recreate that kind of bond through any other format because of what we do, the time we put in, and the things we have gone through together. It really is a team.”


What do you feel you have gained through your service?


“I have gained knowledge that I wouldn’t have gotten any other way, learned a ton about myself, and learned about what I am capable of.  I have gained a new respect for first responders and the work each and every one of us puts in.  I have also found a new calling, a new sense of purpose, and a new family.”


What are the greatest challenges you have faced?


            “Being a first responder isn’t without its difficulties.  We train often, doing more than just the mandatory trainings held each month.  Knowing what to do and how to do it in many different situations takes practice.  Making the right call can be a matter of life or death for us and our patients.  It’s a tremendous responsibility, and one not to be taken lightly.  We see things that I wouldn’t wish for anyone to see. However, those who are willing and able to put themselves in those situations and impact someone else’s life, means the world to those we serve. 


It is not without its impact on us.  There have been calls that I think I would rather forget.  But knowing we went in, did everything we could, and gave our everything to those who needed us is what gets me through.  In a small community like the Amsterdam-Churchill area, we respond to calls for people we often know.  Being able to separate our personal feelings and do what needs to be done is incredibly difficult.  But that is the job. It’s what we do. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”


What keeps you volunteering?


            “In the few short years I have been a volunteer, I have found this department to be a second home and a second family. We have supported each other, we have learned from each other, and we have accomplished together.  I can say without a doubt, as long as I am able, I will continue to volunteer and serve my community.  The reward far outweighs the cost, and it gives me a great sense of pride knowing what we have been able to do.” 


What advice would you give those interested in volunteering?


            “To those considering serving their communities, I can tell you it will be difficult.  It will get ugly.  We see people on their worst days, and we are often the only glimmer of hope that they have.  But if you want to challenge yourself, to learn what things you are capable of, and be that beacon of hope, I urge you to join.  Volunteering has changed my life.  It has made me a better man, it has made me a better husband, and has made me a better neighbor. It will give you a sense of pride, which very few things truly can.  You will get to learn some things that you can apply to all aspects of your life, you will get to work with some of the best people you will ever know, and you will get to play with some pretty cool toys as well!  I saw a volunteer department sign once, and the words, while humorous, pretty well describe life as a volunteer.  “join the fire department; odd hours, low pay, sweet helmets.”  This may seem entertaining, but I can assure you that being a volunteer is so much more than this.  It’s a decision I wish I had made sooner, and I have a feeling that you will too.”

Spotlight: Jonathan Kimm