The system that powers Milltown’s fire hydrant system was installed in the eighties, and the power of fire fighters’ equipment has surpassed the power put out by the rural community’s hydrants. Firefighters say they knew the hydrants would be problematic going into Wednesday evening’s dual-house fire, but they do what they can with what they have. They used the underpowered system, but also relied heavily on shuttled water.
Fire fighters say they don’t know if higher-flow hydrants would have changed the outcome of Wednesday’s fires. Ruth Jones, the secretary of the Milltown Water User’s Association, says that a high-powered system would be preferable. However, she says the neighborhood is a low-income area and the money isn’t there to pay for a new system.
The association collects 45 dollars each month from roughly 30 residents, and Jones says it’s still not even enough money to actually cover expenses. NBC Montana asked Jones to provide the financial records detailing where the money goes. Jones says those records are available to residents at yearly meetings, but said she wasn’t at liberty to show NBC Montana the records.
Jones lives near the homes that burned on Wednesday, and says that while the hydrant system isn’t up to par with modern firefighting equipment, she is certainly happy to have it there in the first place.
“My house could go up tomorrow, you know, who knows, but at least I know that's going to be out here and it's going to help some,” said Jones.
One resident NBC Montana spoke with suggested that the County pays for a new system, pointing at his increased property taxes.
“We don’t have a lot of demands, just, it would be nice if our houses were safe,” said Billy Izzard.