By Doug Hare EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – On Friday, Jan. 24, Big Sky Fire Station #1 will host an open house appreciation party for Chief William Farhat’s committed service to the Big Sky community over the last eight years.
Chief Farhat has been fighting fires for nearly 30 years in four different states, and in Big Sky since 2011, when he took over the position as BSFD Fire Chief. The experienced first responder is set to become the Fire Marshal for the Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Florida, overseeing fire safety and programs in the eighth largest district in the U.S. with 215,000 students, 2,500 employees and over 200 schools.
“It’s a great transition. This is my 31st year of being a first responder. That’s a lot of years of waking up in the middle of the night or working on weekends and holidays,” Chief Farhat said. “I’m looking forward to more work/life balance.”
Farhat began his distinguished firefighting career in Buchanan, Michigan, in 1989, working for the Bertrand Township Fire Department for five years before studying paramedicine, eventually becoming a paramedic in Denver in 1992. After attending a police academy in the Denver suburbs, he changed paths and began his career in law enforcement in the small mountain community of Minturn, Colorado, while continuing to serve as a volunteer firefighter.
After the birth of his first child in 1997, he and his family returned to his home state to work as a public safety officer utilizing the skills he learned as a police officer, firefighter and paramedic in his early career. Three years later, Farhat returned to police as a deputy sheriff in St. Joseph, Michigan where he was trained as a fire investigator, a hazardous materials technician, and a Weapons of Mass Destruction regional responder for the state of Michigan after 9/11.
As deputy sheriff, Farhat continued working as a public safety officer and simultaneously held the position of battalion chief for the Chikaming Township fire departments in Harbert, Michigan. Deciding he wanted to turn his professional focus back to firefighting, in 2006, Farhat accepted a position as assistant chief of the University of Notre Dame Fire Department in Indiana, becoming chief the following year.
When he became the BSFD Fire Chief in 2011, there were only eight firefighters and about 10 volunteer employees under his command. Currently, there are 28 full-time employees in the department with plans to hire six more in the future. Farhat will leave his mark long after he changes coasts, having personally hired 21 of the current BSFD employees.
“It’s been great to live and grow here with my family. Even amongst mountain towns, Big Sky is a unique place,” Farhat said of his departure. “I will miss the staff I work with. They are an uncommonly good group of people. It’s a big family and everyone knows each other really well. That’s going to make it hard to walk away.”
Deputy Chief Greg Megaard will serve as interim chief for the BSFD while the board of trustees forms a hiring committee to fill the vacancy. Established in 1979, the Big Sky fire district stretches from the Karst community in Gallatin Canyon south to the Rainbow Ranch Lodge area; and from Gallatin River to the far western end of Moonlight Basin. While only officially responsible for these 80 square miles, the department typically responds within a 200 square mile range.