GREAT FALLS – It is National Volunteer Week, and people are celebrating the impact of volunteer work throughout the United States.
Black Eagle Volunteer Fire Chief Mike Deshayes said as a child, he wanted to be a firefighter when he grew up.
For the last 15 years, he has lived that dream as a volunteer.
“Originally I started with Carter Volunteer Fire Department,” Deshayes said.
In 2004, he joined the Black Eagle Volunteer Fire Department. He became chief in 2017.
“It is a selfless act. You are trying to make some one’s worst day better,” Deshayes said.
According to Montana Volunteer Firefighters, 400 of the 435 total fire departments in Montana rely on volunteer personnel.
“It is belonging to something that is way bigger than me. You know pride and dedication. A lot of dedication with the hours we put into training and all the calls we go on,” Deshayes said.
But for Black Eagle, it is not just about firefighting, it is also about helping the community.
“We do a lot of fundraisers. Recently we just did one for Guadalupe Clary, who was diagnosed with cancer,” Deshayes said.
They have also raised funds for Sally One, the Montana Hope Project, and other organizations.
The department visits day cares, helps people who are locked out of their homes, and pumps water out of flooded basements.
“Every year we get busier. Last year, we ran 285 calls, and I think the year before we were almost at 300. It just seems like every year we get more and more calls, and it is never the same,” Deshayes said.
The department goes from lift assets to burning buildings to wildfires.
“Even if it is a small bit of you volunteering, you are making a difference,” Deshayes said.
If you are interested in being a volunteer firefighter, Deshayes advised visiting with members of the nearest department.
Reporting by Margaret DeMarco for MTN News