By Kurt Dehmer Explorebigsky.com Contributor

Last December the Bozeman Fire Department got a new tow vehicle for its regional hazardous materials trailer. This tow rig, built by Rosenbauer Firefighting Technology of Wyoming, Minn., has a customized Freightliner cab and chassis with a rescue body, and is configured specifically for HAZMAT emergencies and operations.

In previous years the Bozeman Fire Department relied on a Ford F-550 truck as the primary tow unit for the HAZMAT trailer, acquired in 2004.

A state grant covered the $160,000 sticker price of the new Freightliner. Missoula, Helena and Great Falls also received similar grants and identical vehicles; Billings and Kalispell are set to receive similar trucks within the coming year.

The Bozeman HAZMAT team is one of six regional teams in Montana. This group of professional firefighters is comprised of 18 specially trained technicians, and is on call around the clock.

The team covers not only the city of Bozeman, but also the surrounding area of Gallatin County, including Big Sky and West Yellowstone. In addition, it may respond to hazardous materials emergencies throughout Montana if requested by state agencies such as Disaster and Emergency Services.

While the new truck will spend most of its time in Bozeman, it should serve as an added element of security to citizens of the Big Sky area, as well. The HAZMAT unit was called into service for the President’s 2009 visit to the region; on average it’s utilized nine times a year. Some of the emergencies requiring this specialized service occur in Gallatin Canyon.