The Big Sky Fire Department (BSFD) is asking for help in making improvements so that we can meet the emergency incident response needs in our community.  On November 7, 2017, the District will hold a mail-in election to request a mill levy increase and the below outlines how to vote, the history of the proposal, the needs identified by the department and the costs of the proposal.

Below is an explanation of how to vote in this election, the history of the proposal, the needs identified, the plan to address those needs, the cost of the plan and public meeting dates.

firefighter and fire truck with big sky fire department logo stating they are struggling to meet the needs of our growing community


This election will be conducted by mail-in ballot.  All local registered voters and non-resident property owners are encouraged to vote in District elections, per the following:

  • All active registered voters who live in the Big Sky Fire District (in both Madison and Gallatin Counties) will get a ballot mailed to them automatically on October 18, 2017
  • If you are a property owner who is not a resident but want to vote in this election, please click here for more information.

If you are a resident but need to register to vote, please contact your respective County Clerk and Recorder for more information (Gallatin County Clerk and Recorder:  406-582-3050 or Madison County Clerk and Recorder:  406-843-4270

History of the Current Proposal

Over the past year and a half, the Department has been evaluating the findings of a Master Plan study that was performed by Emergency Services Consulting, International (ESCI) and formally adopted by the Big Sky Fire District Board of Trustees in 2016.  From that evaluation, BSFD has come up with the below plan to improve the safety of our community and our responders.

This study identified what is needed to address not only the areas where the department can make an improvement now but meet the future challenges as well.

Identified Needs

Below is an explanation of the needs, the plan to address them and the approximate costs of the plan for a residential taxpayer.

NOTE:  Please do not take any part of this video as an attempt to lobby for an approval of this mill levy request.  It is only meant to provide information so that voters can make informed decisions on their own.

This is a summary of the major concerns that have been identified:

  • 64% growth in emergency incidents since 2010
    • This year, we have already exceeded the Master Plan forecasted incident levels for the year 2020, a full 3 1/2 years earlier than anticipated
  • BSFD takes longer than 15 minutes to respond to over 20% of our incidents
    • This should never be above 10 minutes and the goal should be 8 minutes
  • BSFD does not have adequate staffing to respond to incidents 41% of the time
    • An astoundingly high number and measured after the staffing additions made in 2012
      • This is an area where a significant amount of improvement is needed in order to have an effective response force
    • NOTE: The 2012 staffing additions were based on a study 2005 of the department
      • That study recommended at least 4 people on duty (more were known to be needed, this was a bare minimum number to function safely) and was based on the 2005 number of emergency incident levels
        • This was achieved in 2016, 11 years later after the study was completed
      • BSFD incident responses have doubled (increased by 101%) since 2005, reinforcing the current the Master Plan’s concerns
  • BSFD responds to two or more incidents at the same time 14% of the time
    • At peak periods this can be well over 25% of the time
    • It is not possible to respond appropriately to the number, complexity, and types of demand with our current staffing
    • Aside from the 2-3 firefighters coming from the Yellowstone Club in 20-30 minutes, depending on the incident’s location, there is no ability to timely draw the resources needed from other organizations via mutual aid requests
      • This is far too little resources arriving far too late during an emergency.

Plan to Address Needs

The overall plan is to renovate our stations for 24-hour occupancy and to add enough positions to better address the emergency needs of our remote, growing community, as well as seek to improve our Insurance Services Office (ISO) Public Protection Classification (PPC) by:

  • BSFD’s 31-year-old and 21-year-old stations, neither of which were designed for 24-hour occupancy and need repair work and expansion
    • This part of the mill levy funded plan will be done first
    • At Station 1:
      • Bedrooms will be remodeled and they will have heating and air conditioning added to the rooms (that does not exist now)
      • Bathrooms, kitchens and other interior spaces will be remodeled for updating and efficiency needs
      • Leaking roof will be repaired/replaced
      • Exterior surfaces will be replaced
    • At Station 2:
      • Bedrooms will be created and the interior spaces will be remodeled so that there can be 24-hour occupancy as that does not exist there currently
  • Once the renovations are complete, the mill levy funding will then shift to create, equip and maintain 11 new positions
    • 9 firefighters, 1 fire marshal an 1 fire inspector
    • This will help our ability to respond with a more appropriately during emergencies as well as creating a robust ability to deal with fire prevention issues in our community
    • These positions will be added in phases, over time, with 1 position in 2018, 3 in 2019, 3 in 2020 and 4 in 2021
      • If the costs associated with the renovations are less, these hirings will occur earlier

Additional information on this Master Plan & ISO Public Protection Classification Mitigation Strategy can be found by viewing this presentation.

Cost of Proposal

Depending on the county, for every tax dollar spent, roughly only 7 cents (Gallatin County) or 13 cents (Madison County) of your local property tax dollars fund the Big Sky Fire District. The assessed amount is the same, it is just a difference in the overall amount of taxes assesed in each county.

In general, those property taxes account for 45% of the District’s funding as other sources of revenue are also used. 

For graphic depiction of how your tax dollars are allocated and what the District uses for revenue, please go to the Property Taxation Breakdown and Annual Budget Information page.

This mill levy will generate $1,500,000 annually and cost approximately $3.27 a month / $39.30 a year per $100,000 of the Department of Revenue (DOR) market value for a residential property, as calculated below:

  • To find your DOR market value, homeowners should look at their property tax bill or use the links at the bottom of the page to get the most accurate information

Property Tax Information Sources

Gallatin County:

Use the circled Market Value for the above calculation:

property tax information webpage

Madison County:

Use the sum of all the Market Values in the of the red circled area for the above calculation:

property tax information page on website

Public Meeting Dates

There will be 9 public meetings regarding the Mill Levy request at Big Sky Fire Station 1, located at 650 Rainbow Trout Run in the Westfork Meadows.

  • October 4 at 9:00 am, 12:00 pm and 7:00 pm
  • October 9 at 9:00 am, 1:00 pm and 7:00 pm
  • October 23 at 9:00 am, 1:00 pm and 7:00 pm


If you have any questions or would like to have a presentation made to your organization about this request, please contact Fire Chief William Farhat at 406-995-2100 or via email at

This webpage has been provided for informational purposes only.

It was funded by:

Big Sky Fire District
Alan M. McClain, Jr., Board Chair
650 Rainbow Trout Run
P.O. Box  160382
Big Sky, Montana  59716
(406) 995-2100

Updated 10-3-17