In 2008, Missoula Rural Fire expanded its Resident Firefighter Program to provide extra support during non-peak hours.

The department had no budget at the time to supplement their force of career firefighters, so young people interested in pursuing a firefighting and EMT career were housed in four of the five rural fire stations. That practice continues in 2014.

Missoula Rural Fire Chief Bill Colwell said the relationship benefits both the students and the department, as well.

"In exchange for a place to live, some tuition assistance, and the chance to experience what it's like to actually live in a fire station atmosphere, they work 12 hours every third day for us in the station," Colwell said. "They work under direct supervision of a career firefighter. Part of their college course work includes training as an EMS provider and Firefighter One training. We also have them go through our rookie academy where they also have an opportunity to receive haz-mat training and other outside training available through the fire district."

Colwell said the students go on regular fire calls when they're on duty, and if they are off-duty at the time, they can respond as a regular volunteer firefighter. Both males and females are welcome in the program, and Colwell said all the college students have contributed to the overall success of the program.

Young people interested in being a part of the resident firefighter program can find more information on the department's website, or can find information simply by visiting any of the Missoula Rural Fire stations.

Missoula Rural Fire Chief Bill Colwell