“If there is a silver lining to it,” said Fergus County Sheriff Rick Vaughn, “it’s seeing how the Montanais help the Montanais.”
Sheriff Vaughn is absolutely right.
“This” was the tragic fire that burned down 25 homes, six commercial buildings, and 18 garages and other side structures in the farming community of Denton, central Montana, last week.
Fire crews across the state have responded to the call for mutual aid for Denton. So are the volunteers from neighboring towns like Winifred and Moulton and Stanford and Geyser. And some from much further.
Incident commander Don Pyrah said they had made a huge difference.
“There was a lot of effort and it looks bad, but it could have been worse,” said Pyrah. “Congratulations to the firefighters and to those who showed up. They have made a considerable effort. … I’m sorry for the structural losses, but we haven’t lost any human life. “
Jack Cutter of Denton said: “The overwhelming support we received, from Glasgow to Missoula, from Red Lodge to Havre, the people who were here, the camaraderie that went with him, the support we received, it was is just from the heart. “
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Oddly and sadly, the West Wind Fire was not the only event that caused serious damage to the state in the past week – nor the only one in which volunteers from across the state stepped up.
The failure of part of the Hebgen Lake dam caused the Madison River to dry up downstream of the dam.
Volunteers rushed to one of the state’s most beloved fisheries, helping as best they could, carefully rescuing stranded brown trout and moving them to areas of the river with sufficient flow.
They were responsible, attentive to the many eggs of the browns’ laying season which had just ended. They came by the dozen to help save the stretch of river between the dam and Lake Ennis, affectionately known as the “50 mile spindle” by trout fishermen. It is one of the emblematic places of all fishing. It’s like fly fishing in a cathedral.
Of course, the Denton fire is several orders of magnitude worse than a fishing cataclysm. But what the two catastrophes have in common is that they are the two most recent manifestations of the incredible character of this state.
For centuries, as long as humans have walked this land, they have depended on each other for their survival, and doing so – both the natives and ultimately the rest of us immigrants – was a question. of life or death. Bad weather and the big country guaranteed it.
Montana today has clung to this neighbor helping neighbor philosophy.
It’s one of the best things about being Montanais.
– The Billings Gazette
The Billings Gazette Editorial Board includes Chairman and Editor Dave Worstell, Regional Editor David McCumber and Chief Photographer Larry Mayer.