According to the National Interagency Fire Center, nifc.gov, Montana exceeded one million acres burned - so far - during 2017.
The itemized list of fires in the Northern Rockies Region is available at http://bit.ly/2j0t2lZ.
According to the site, Idaho had seen 20 fires, burning 125,066 acres, with no structures destroyed. The cost of fighting the fires in Idaho so far comes ot $23,311,450.
North Dakota has seen one fire so far, the Magpie Fire, which burned 4,907 acres at a cost of $1,000,000.
No fires were reported for Yellowstone National Park, which is included in the report.
In Montana, there have been 69 structures destroyed so far. The tally of expenses, to date, come to $296,818,438.
The list, however, is not complete since it does not report fires under 100 acres.
The number of structures destroyed is already out of date. The report shows no structures lost in the Alice Creek Fire, but it was confirmed at a meeting held in Augusta on Monday night that four structures, hunting cabins, belonging to the McDonoughs, had been destroyed.
According to the NIFC website, 137 fires have made the Montana list.
The Alice Creek Fire, by Tuesday, had grown to 21,393 acres. Total personnel assigned has grown to 253.
Since our last report, a meeting was held in Wolf Creek on Friday, September 1. About 40 people came to the meeting.
All of the meetings follow a similar format, with updates on the acreage burned, weather and evacuations.
At the Wolf Creek meeting, however, one speaker stood out.
Rocky Infanger is the chief of the Wolf Creek - Craig Volunteer Fire Department (WCCVFD), which consists of two companies. By maintaining two fire companies, up to 28 firefighters can be registered - with each company - meaning that the Wolf Creek and Craig communities could be protected by up to 56 volunteers.
But, the WCCVFD only has 16 members.
Rocky looked like a man who had been on the front lines at the meeting. He told the crowd that his fire department did not have the resources to “put a truck at every house, but we’re out there.” He added that other departments were ready to respond, to assist. “East Valley can be here in thirty minutes; we’ve been contacted by Cascade County. They can be here in a couple of hours.”
“We are a retirement community here. I’m fifty-five, and I’m one of the young ones,” Rocky told the Sun Times. Knowing that he has more important things to do, I quickly ask Rocky how Sun Times readers can help his crew.
As worn-out as he is, Rocky asks who I’m with. “Sun Times, in Fairfield.” The firefighter thinks for a second, and asks if I know Ralph “Scoop” Bidwell. Bidwell was the founder and publisher of the Sun Valley SUN, a paper that was based in Augusta, and lated in the Valley. The paper was acquired by the Fairfield Times in 1992.
Rocky starts chatting, like a long-lost friend, about how much he liked Bidwell’s newspaper. “I started reading that when I came out of the service.”
Infanger said that a lot of donated items were coming in. “We’ve gotten so much bottled water, we can’t use it all.” He said that the Helena Albertsons and Safeway had donated items.
“But what do you need,” I ask.
“Something like a pre-paid credit card. For incidental expenses.”
Rocky said that when other agencies come in to assist, the WCVVFD crew likes to show their appreciation by buying their colleagues a coffee, or maybe supper after a long day in the heat. And, there is the matter of the gas charge card that does not work when the team has to travel to Lincoln. “Our Exxon card is no good at the station there.
Asked how our readers could help, Rocky suggested we speak with Dave Sammons, president of the Lewis & Clark County Rural Fire Council and chief of the East Valley Fire Department. The Fire Council is set up to accept donations.
The council includes volunteer fire companies that are on the front lines, fighting the Alice Creek Fire, among others in the county. The volunteer fire departments in Augusta, Baxendale, Birdseye, Canyon Creek, Eastgate, East Valley, West Valley, York, Marysville, East Helena, Lincoln, Wolf Creek, Craig, Dearborn, Tri-Lakes, and Montana City are part of the council.
Sammons told the Sun Times that Lewis & Clark Brewing Company recently donated over $3,000 they had raised. But, with no end in sight to the fires plaguing the region, the needs of these rural fire brigades will continue to grow.
Readers can send a check, or a pre-paid card (make sure it’s a MasterCard of Visa type card that is universally accepted) to: Lewis and Clark Rural Fire Council, P.O. Box 6621, Helena, MT 59604.