For Tom Bruha, it was a simple decision to make, considering the close ties that the Baker Rural Fire Department has with the Bowman Fire Department.
The connection has been strong between the two fire departments for several years. “We got involved here about three or four years ago. We actually joined the North Dakota Firefighter’s Association. We send members of our department up to places like Minot for the North Dakota State Fire School,” he said in February.
“It is closer for us sending guys to training up there than to send to the western end of Montana,” Bruha said. “We joined up with the North Dakota Fire Association so that we could use their instructors and some of their fire props. They come to Baker for our Mon-Dak Fire School, which we will be hosting next April,” the chief explained. The last two Mon-Dak Fire Schools were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were talking to the instructors again this weekend about trying to have the fire school again.”
When the Baker firefighters came to Bowman, they came over riding in Truck 416.
“Four of us brought the truck over (Scott Putnam, Travis Bruha and Traci Bruha),” the chief said.
“We bought it (the fire truck) about five and a half years ago from Highland Park in Texas, a suburb of Dallas,” he said. There were some changes that had to be made for Baker, but one thing which was not changed was a decal on the side of the truck which said “Honoring America’s Bravest 9-11-01 ... We Will Not Forget You.”
That decal meant even more over the weekend, according to the chief.
For two days, the truck from Baker was assigned flag duty over a traveling 9/11 memorial which stopped in Bowman for the convention.
“Truck 416 has a 75-foot aerial. It has got a 1,500-gallon a minute pump. It has a calf system on it. It can carry six firefighters,” he said with pride.
Truck 416 was parked next to the Stephen Siller Memorial Foundation’s traveling 9/11 memorial, with the aerial fully extended at a 45 degree angle. “It wasn’t vertical. We kept at a 45 degree angle … if you have it too far up, the flag won’t fly. It wants to wrap around the aerial, so if you keep it down at a lower angle the flag will hang,” the chief said.
Montana will be hosting its state fire convention starting Friday, in the town of Shelby – about 90 miles north of Great Falls – but Baker will not be making an appearance. “I will not make it to the Montana one. It is 500 miles away. It was easier to come to Bowman about 45 miles and help my neighbor.”
“We are members of Montana, even though I am over here in Bowman, North Dakota this weekend. All they (Bowman) asked was to bring the ladder over and hang the flag,” the fire chief explained. “I volunteered to do that for them.”
“It was honor duty for 9/11 and the memorial that was here.”
“It was awesome to see it (the memorial). I’d love to get to New York, but I don’t know when that will happen,” he added with a chuckle.
“Baker had a tornado, going on six years ago. That day, Bowman send 23 firefighters to help us. We also had others, Plevna, Ekalaka, Wibaux, Marmarth … there was departments from all around. But Bowman sent 23 of their fire department out of 28 members.
“This is basically a thank you for helping us by coming over here. We haven’t forgotten about that,” the chief said. “They were good neighbors.”