(L to R) Firefighters Shane Farmer, Taylor Lee, and Deputy Chief Dustin Tetrault are easing into their new positions at the Big Sky Fire Department.

Meet the new guys

Three hired on at the Big Sky Fire Department

The Big Sky Fire Department recently welcomed two new firefighters and a deputy chief to the team. Here’s a quick intro to the “newbies.” Be sure to give them a warm Big Sky welcome if you see them around town!

Dustin Tetrault, Deputy Chief of Community Risk Management 

Tetrault’s spent nine years as a firefighter/paramedic about an hour and half south of Chicago. He and his wife used to travel to Montana, “and we kind of wanted to get out of the rat race, so we moved out here,” he said. For the last six years Tetrault was focused on wild land fire, the last three years as fire warden and emergency manager for Madison County. In that position he said he worked Big Sky Fire Department quite a bit, “And I saw a really great program, a great group of guys,” he said. “So I saw the opportunity to become a part of it and I couldn’t pass it up.” 

Monday, October 5 was Deputy Chief Tetrault’s first day on the job at the BSFD office, following a week of training. During training he was proud to say he received his qualifications to teach an up to type-three incident commander course. “It’s something that will help us statewide because we don’t have big group of instructors who can teach those kinds of courses, but also within our department to be able to teach that level of incident management.”

He’ll be in charge of things like community risk prevention and outreach programs (think smoke detector installation programs and home visits to asses wildfire risk), code enforcement and fire investigation. 

With his new office put together, Deputy Chief Tetrault was eager to begin his new job. “I’m looking forward to just getting out, learning the community, these guys at the department, and the operations,” he said.

 

Firefighter Shane Farmer

Born and raised in Iowa, Farmer and his wife had vacationed in Big Sky for a number of years. A couple years ago, he said, they decided to try to make a change, and make Big Sky their home. That’s when he was introduced to the BSFD, “and I really, really liked what I saw,” he said. 

Farmer has been working in the fire service for nearly 18 years, starting off his career as a volunteer firefighter back in 2001, hired as a full time as a Cedar Falls Fire and Rescue Department firefighter in January, 2006. “So as soon as I learned the progressive nature of Big Sky, as far as the level of service they want to provide this community, I was instantly drawn to it.”

Farmer’s wife, a physicians assistant, was able to land a job at the Big Sky Medical Center, and his mother-in-law made the move as well. “We made it kind of a family trip,” said Farmer, who has a two-year-old son and another child on the way, due at the end of January. “We wanted to raise our family somewhere in this area, and everything just kind of fell into place. It spoke to us that it was meant to be.” 

Farmer didn’t mention it during the interview, but during the October Big Sky Fire Department board of directors meeting he was recognized for his success in the Firefighter Combat Challenge - he’s been competing in the competition, which highlights what firefighters do on a day to day basis, for a over a decade, and he’ got five world titles to show for it. 

 

Firefighter Taylor Lee

Lee hails from California, but moved to Cameron, Mont. when he was 22, volunteering at the Madison Valley Rural Fire Department for about 18 months before he was hired on at the Miles City Fire Department in 2013, where he worked until he was recently chosen to join the BSFD.

“One of the major reasons I wanted to work in Big Sky was because I was looking to progress my career in not only firefighting, but on the paramedic side,” Lee said. “I feel like this department really fosters both.” 

On top of that, his family resides in the Ennis and Madison Valley area as well as Missoula, another bonus for Lee. “That puts me closer to mom and dad, and my sister and brother-in-law, so this is definitely a kind of homecoming for me.” 

Monday was the start of week four for Farmer and Lee, continuing three weeks of training focusing on basic skills to make sure he’s on the same page as the rest of his team. He’s been on one call since he joined, responding to a dump truck rollover scene where extra manpower was needed.

One of the biggest challenges Lee said he’s seen as he adjusts from the flatland of eastern Montana to the mountains of Big Sky has been the isolation of the community, with mutual aid being so far away and the topography being challenging. With snowfall accumulating, Lee said he’s preparing for how winter conditions will come into play. “At first I wasn’t sure why they had the flagpoles on top of the hydrants,” said Lee, admitting it made him feel a little silly when he learned it was because of how deep the snowbanks can get. “And then it dawned on me, they’d be buried.”

Farmer said his times vacationing in Big Sky prepared him for the coming winter, and coming from Iowa where winters can also pack a punch, he’s seen how extreme cold can bring on incidents. Coming from corn field country, Farmer seconded Lee’s adjustments to the topography, “But every day I come into work and look at the scenery, I get a big smile on my face. We’ve got the best job in the world, no matter what part of the country you’re in, and if you can find a place you really enjoy, then you’re definitely winning.”

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