First mission team to Northern Cheyenne will build fire garage

March 21, 2016
Leaders from the Northern Cheyenne Fire Protection Department and the Rocky Mountain Conference discuss plans on the future site of the fire garage in Birney. Photo by Laurie Day, Assistant Director of Mission & Ministry
Story and photo submitted by Laurie Day
Assistant Director of Mission & Ministry

Beginning this summer, volunteer firefighters and other community leaders from Birney on the Northern Cheyenne reservation in Montana will work with United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (VIM) to build a fire garage as part of the Community Fire Protection partnership between the Northern Cheyenne and the Rocky Mountain Conference. (Read the March 14 announcement on the Community Fire Protection Partnership)
The first VIM team to Birney will be from First UMC in Grand Junction, Colorado, during the last week of July. The team's primary task will be to work with local volunteers building a fire garage to house the fire engine purchased by the Rocky Mountain Conference last summer. Team members will also help create defensible spaces around structures for increased protection from an advancing fire and clean up the community playground. In addition, VIM team members will learn about the history, traditional ways, and current realities of the Northern Cheyenne and life on a reservation.

Birney is the location where most of the Northern Cheyenne Sand Creek Massacre survivors originally settled as they fled north following the 1864 massacre in southern Colorado. Since the purchase of the fire engine last summer, it has already been used to save a house following the start of an electrical fire. Thanks to the presence of a fire engine within the community the house and family suffered minimal damage.

A fire garage in Birney will significantly increase the firefighting capacity within the community by enabling the Northern Cheyenne Fire Protection Department to house a fire engine within the community. Currently, during winter months the Birney fire engine must be stored outside with empty water tanks so the water doesn’t freeze or else at the heated fire garage in Lame Deer. When notice of a fire is received a fire engine in Birney will need to be filled with water or else wait for a truck from Lame Deer. Given access to water and road conditions this can take up to one hour, much too long when a house is burning.

If you or your church are interested in participating in a Volunteers in Mission work team please email Laurie Day at, or Rev. Jerry Boles at
Financial support and construction supplies are also needed for the fire garage. Donations to support the Community Fire Protection project can be sent to the Rocky Mountain Conference designated for “Northern Cheyenne Fire Protection”. Your church’s support of Native American Ministries Sunday on April 10 will also help build fire garages. One half of the Rocky Mountain Conference offering will support the Northern Cheyenne Fire Protection project and the other half will equip and empower Native American pastors, congregations, and seminary students through the general United Methodist Church. Thank you for your generosity and support!