- Public Safety
- Department Overview
- Leadership Team
Pepper ValdezFire ChiefPhone: (406) 657-8420
Chief Valdez has 27 years of experience in emergency services. He started his career as an EMT and paramedic before joining the Billings Fire Department almost 23 years ago. In January of 1999, Valdez joined the BFD, where he advanced through every rank serving as a Firefighter, Engineer, Captain, Battalion Chief, Assistant Chief, and now, Fire Chief. Valdez has a master’s degree in organizational leadership and a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Montana State University-Billings. Chief Valdez is also a nationally registered paramedic. Chief Valdez has been a resident of Billings for 27 years and is married with two children where he enjoys sports and watching his children participate in extracurricular activities.
Matt HoppelExecutive Assistant Fire ChiefPhone: (406) 237-6166
Assistant Chief Hoppel is a 30-year member of Emergency Services. He began his career in 1991 dispatching for the fire, ambulance, and law enforcement divisions for the City of Laurel, Montana. He then became a full-time police officer in 1993, until promoted to Field Training Officer. Chief Hoppel joined the Billings Fire Department in January 1998, serving through the ranks of Firefighter, Engineer, Captain, Deputy Fire Marshall, Training Chief, and Battalion Chief. Much of his career has been dedicated to serving in various roles in training. His love for training and being an instructor is what has kept him involved in the Department. Chief Hoppel is a member of the International Society Fire Service Instructors and has actively pursued all activities that can help the Society's mission. He currently serves on the Board of Directors, Executive Board, and Director at Large for the Society. Hoppel also serves on the Board of Directors for the Montana Fire Chiefs Association.
He is married and has three grown children that currently attend Montana State University in Billings.
Kevin JohnsonAssistant Fire Chief of OperationsPhone: (406) 657-8421
Assistant Chief Johnson started his career in the fire service with the Absarokee Volunteer Fire Department the day after graduation from high school in May of 1995. He bought his first car in June, then never wanted to do anything else. Chief Johnson began full-time with Lockwood Fire District in July 1997. By January of 2001, he became a Firefighter with the Billings Fire Department. Chief Johnson has served as a technician with Rope Rescue and Hazmat teams, Chief Fleet Mechanic, and fought fires for over 25 summers as a wildland firefighter. Chief Johnson's experience and hard work earned him the rank of Assistant Chief of Operations in September, 2021. He is currently an NWCG All-Hazard Type 3 Incident Commander with a Tree Faller Certification Class C. He resides in the Heights with his three boys and wife, and designs/crafts leather saddles and belts in his spare time.
Jason BanfieldAssistant Fire Chief of EMSPhone: (406) 869-3923
Assistant Chief Banfield has over 30 years of experience in emergency services, 20 of those years as a Firefighter. His career progressed as an EMT, Flight EMT, and Paramedic before joining the Lockwood Fire Department in 2002. He then transferred to the Billings Fire Department in 2006. Chief Banfield has also kept his interest in medicine by working at a local hospital for the past 24 years in Safety and Emergency Management. Chief Banfield has an associate’s degree in fire science from Columbia Southern University and is working on his bachelor’s degree in occupational safety and health. Chief Banfield has been a resident of Billings for 33 years and is married with two children. He enjoys the outdoors and trips with his family.
Bill TatumFire MarshalPhone: (406) 657-8422
Fire Marshal Tatum has served the Billings Fire Department for over 18 years, with 16 years devoted to the Fire Prevention Bureau. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Education from Rocky Mountain College and was an elementary school teacher and coach for five years prior to joining the department. He also served four years in the US Army as a Combat Medic. He is a certified Fire Plans Examiner and Fire Inspector II through the International Code Council, and a Certified Fire Investigator through the International Association of Arson Investigators. His hobbies include the outdoors, motorsports, and spending time with his family.
Darrek MitchellBattalion Chief, A Shift
Battalion Chief Mitchell has 27 years in the fire service. He started his career at Helena National Forest and began structural fire fighting in 1996. Chief Mitchell then attended Utah Valley University to study Fire Science and was hired by the Billings Fire Department in 1998. He worked his way through the ranks of Firefighter, Engineer, Captain and was promoted to Battalion Chief in 2018. He is passionate about his advocacy for mental health as a Peer Support Specialist Lead and is a Big Sky Critical Incident Stress Management Team member. His focus is to help mitigate post-traumatic stress injuries and other issues that hinder the lives and work of fellow firefighters. Chief Mitchell lives in Billings and enjoys skiing, riding his motorcycle, traveling, and helping others through community and charitable organizations.
Dan CotrellBattalion Chief, B Shift
Battalion Chief Cotrell has dedicated his adult life to mastering the fire service trade. Chief Cotrell began his career as an intern firefighter with the Rainier Rural Fire District located in the Cascade Range of western Oregon. After graduation from Portland Community College, he took a full-time career firefighter position with the Miles City Fire Department. Then in 2002, he accepted his dream position with the Billings Fire Department, where he has held the ranks from Firefighter to now Battalion Chief. Chief Cotrell has served as a HazMat Technician, EMT Intermediate, Union President, a Rescue Technician, and co-leader of the BFD Rescue Team. Chief Cotrell's leadership philosophy is to leave the fire service and his community better than when he started, using a "common-sense" incident command style to accomplish his goals. He regularly travels to fire departments across the nation as a guest instructor to give insight into his unique approach to multi-company emergency responses. When not working or teaching, Chief Cotrell enjoys spending time with his wife and five children.
Kevin BentzBattalion Chief, C Shift
Battalion Chief Bentz has 30 years in the fire service. He started as a volunteer firefighter With the Lockwood Fire District in 1991 and began working seasonally with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation as a wildland firefighter. In 1994 he started his career service with the Lockwood Fire District, working as a firefighter/EMT. Chief Bentz was hired by the Billings Fire department in 2000. He worked his way through the ranks of Firefighter, Engineer, and Captain. In 2021, Chief Bentz was promoted to Battalion Chief. He has spent the majority of his career as an advocate for the professional fire service serving as an officer for the IAFF Local, #521. Chief Bentz attended many state and national seminars learning the many aspects of labor/management relations. He lives in Billings and enjoys his time hunting, fishing, boating, skiing, riding his motorcycle, and traveling.
Jason LyonBattalion Chief, Swing ShiftPhone: (406) 657-8428
Battalion Chief Lyon is a 19-year veteran of the Billings Fire Department. He has served as firefighter/paramedic, engineer, captain and was promoted to Battalion Chief in 2018. He formerly served as a technical rescue specialist and is currently the program manager for the BFD's Regional Hazardous Materials Team and is the Montana State Hazmat Advisory Group's Secretary. Chief Lyon also works as a contractor supporting the U.S. Army's CBRNE enterprise and an instructor for the National Fire Academy. Chief Lyon was instrumental in implementing a "rescue task force" concept at the BFD to prepare firefighters in quickly deploying to save lives in incidents of mass violence. Jason also participated in FEMA's Over the Horizon working group on high-threat incidents, and most recently, he helped spearhead the BFD's efforts to combat the COVID-19 epidemic. Chief Lyon holds associate degrees in Fire Science and Paramedicine, a Bachelor of Science in Business Management, and a Master of Arts in Security Studies (with distinction) from the Naval Postgraduate School.
Bryan FrancisFire Training ChiefPhone: (406) 237-6145
Training Chief Bryan Francis is a 20-plus-year member of the fire service serving the last 15-plus years with the City of Billings Fire Department. He began his career as a Reserve Firefighter with the city of Pullman, Washington while attending college. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Chief Francis pursued a career in the Fire Service. He attended Paramedic School and gained qualifications in Wildland fire and Hazardous Materials response. Currently, Chief Francis is an ISFSI credentialed Training Officer, a member of the Fire Department Safety Officers Association, NWCG Division Supervisor, and a Hazardous Materials Technician. In his off time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and son.
Derek Yeager911 Communication Center Manager
Derek joined the Billings Fire Department as the Director of the Joint City/County Emergency Communications Center in late 2020 after serving almost 22 years in the professional wildland fire service. Derek began as an entry-level wildland firefighter and progressed through the ranks to the position of Fire Management Officer, while holding certifications as a nationally recognized Incident Commander and Montana State Fire Warden. He was an integral leadership figure in the development of the local wildland fire response and operational dispatch network as their coordinator. Derek has worked wildland fire positions for local, state, and federal agencies across 22 states and 3 countries (USA, Mexico, and Canada), including time spent on engines, hand crews, aerial borne crews, specialty teams, and various command and general staff positions. Derek was a key member in multi-agency coordinating groups and led numerous multi-discipline coordinating efforts across the area for nearly 10 years. Derek spends his free time enjoying his family and the great outdoors.