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IAFF local 4732 President John Foster (far left) presents departing Fire Chief William Farhat (second from left) with a plaque thanking him for his dedicated service to the Big Sky community and Fire Department. PHOTO BY BRANDON WALKER

Community says goodbye to BSFD’s Chief Farhat after eight years

By Brandon Walker EBS COMMUNITY EDITOR

BIG SKY – A crowd of about 30 individuals were in attendance at the Big Sky Fire Department on Jan. 24 to see off departing BSFD Chief William Farhat. Colleagues and community members celebrated the man in the very station he has overseen for nearly a decade.

“I’ve been cleaning out my office and every time I find something that I haven’t seen in a while it triggers a memory,” said Farhat, surrounded by friends who congratulated and thanked him. “The community has grown a lot and we had to grow along with it … It’s going to hit, you know, when everybody leaves, I go to a quiet office and turn lights off for the last time and leave my keys.”

The celebration kicked off with speeches and award presentations by President of the Local IAFF 4732, John Foster, and Interim Chief Greg Megaard. Lastly, Farhat addressed the crowd that came out to wish him well. His speech was light and cheerful as he worked in some jokes and even told the tale of how he never anticipated becoming a fire chief in the first place.

Megaard, who served with BSFD as Deputy Chief-Operations from 2016 until he took the helm at 5 p.m. on Jan. 24 as Interim Chief, said Farhat’s exit is bittersweet.

“Obviously, Chief Farhat’s done some remarkable things here, but when you do make a move for your family, nobody can begrudge that,” Megaard said after addressing the crowd. “It means everything to be able to send him off the right way and have members of the public, the board, the fire staff here.”

Next on the docket for Farhat is a move to Florida where he will assume the role of Fire Marshal for the Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Florida. His new position will be no small task: Orange County is the eighth largest in the U.S. Farhat’s lengthy experience as a first responder will be invaluable as he oversees 2,000 schools housing some 215,000 students and 2,500 employees.

Although Foster detailed that Farhat is no stranger to handling a lofty workload, citing his track record in Big Sky as proof. “We had a board meeting just a couple days ago [and] we talked about our call volume increasing 111 percent since 2010. So, the growth in the community has been massive and he’s been able to keep up with it and he’s just done so much for the fire department,” Foster said.

The departing chief’s legacy will live on long after his departure. During his eight-year tenure, the size of the BSFD more than tripled in size from eight full-time employees to 28. Farhat hired 21 of them himself.

“A lot of us are here … have our jobs because of the mill levies that he helped pass within the community,” Foster said. “I was hired on one of those mill levies, some of the other guys have been hired on other ones and on grants that he’s gotten passed through. He’s been great for the area, he’s been great for us, and good for the relationship between the local [IAFF 4732 union] and the fire department.”

Then, as if it was written into existence by a Hollywood screenwriter, a fire call rang out during the celebration. The need to ensure the coast was clear lined the departing chief’s face as he checked for updates. True right up to his last day, he fulfilled his duties to the best of his ability no matter the situation.

Farhat shared a final sentiment of how much the Big Sky community and station has meant to him over the years. “It’ll be sad, no doubt. I have left jobs before. It’s not the first time for me, but this one is different … I have a much stronger attachment to the people I work with here, care about them a lot more. They’ve been great to me so I’m going to miss that.”

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