Partnering with Northern Cheyenne community to build up their fire protection

July 06, 2015
Story and photos submitted by Laurie Day and Clint Stanovsky

In a continuing effort to build healing relationships with our indigenous brothers and sisters, the Rocky Mountain Conference is partnering with the Northern Cheyenne Tribe for community fire protection, as Bishop Elaine Stanovsky announced during the Annual Conference Session in June. The Northern Cheyenne are of the tribes that suffered significant loss during the Sand Creek Massacre.

The Northern Cheyenne Fire Protection Department (NCFPD) is an agency of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe and has primary responsibility for fire protection of structures on the reservation. The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs has lead responsibility for fighting wildland fires, and works with NCFPD to provide fire protection in the wildland-urban areas of the reservation. The reservation comprises approximately 444,000 acres of pine forest and grassland, including the populated areas of Lame Deer, Birney, Busby, Ashland and Muddy.

Currently the Northern Cheyenne’s existing fire engines are located in a single garage in Lame Deer, Montana, near the northern-center of the reservation. Considering snow, mud and unpaved roads, the engines can take up to an hour to reach the remote settled areas from Lame Deer. For better fire service, firefighting capacity, and response times, the plans are to both decentralize its trucks and acquire an additional four-wheel drive truck suitable for the wildland-urban interface.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has awarded the Rocky Mountain Conference two matching grants of $10,000 each to assist with the community fire protection project on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. One grant is for the purchase of the needed fire engine and the second grant will assist Volunteers in Mission (VIM) teams to help with the construction of garages to safely house the fire engines across the reservation.

Working through a national equipment broker, we have located in California a used, low-mileage, four-wheel drive fire engine suitable for all-season operations in wildland-urban areas. This engine will provide much needed capability to fight structural fires in rough terrain, as well as “pump-and-roll” capability to fight off-road brush fires. This truck fits well with the plans to distribute equipment to outlying settlements.

We need a total of $22,200 to purchase and transport the fire engine and four Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) packs to the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. During Annual Conference, churches and individuals pledged more than $9,000 to help purchase this fire engine. Thank you for your generosity! UMCOR provided a matching grant of $10,000 so additional donations of $3,200 are still needed. An additional $4,800 in donations will allow for the purchase of miscellaneous supplies, more SCBA packs, and spare tanks to help keep firefighters safe.

Volunteers in Mission teams will partner with the Northern Cheyenne to build several heated garages at remote locations on the reservation, allowing for fire engines to be housed closer to outlying areas on the reservation. This will reduce the risk of fire damage to populated areas of the reservation, significantly reducing response times and fire destruction. Moreover, during the winter, low temperatures can freeze water in fire engines stored outdoors, making them unreliable in times of emergency.

Otto Braided Hair, Director of NCFPD, will coordinate the construction projects, supplies, and individuals from the tribe to provide labor to work alongside VIM teams. The Northern Cheyenne currently have building materials for the construction of two garages. Additionally, they have agreement from the NC Housing Authority for materials for the construction of a third garage. Skilled labor and tools are needed to construct these three garages. We know of churches, individuals and groups who are eager to assist with these VIM team. If you are interested in learning more about the VIM teams, their needs, and schedules, please email

Pledges and additional donations for the Northern Cheyenne Fire Protection project can be made online. Donations can also be sent to the Rocky Mountain Conference, 6110 Greenwood Plaza Blvd., Greenwood Village, CO 80111 with a memo for “Northern Cheyenne Fire Protection”. Thank you for your support and generosity!