NEAR NEIHART — You may not think of Summer as a busy time at Showdown Ski Area, but because of the Divide Complex fires, it is this year. The team at Showdown Montana ski area is working to help the crews that are fighting the wildfires. As of Thursday morning, the Balsinger Fire is about 8,185 acres with no containment. The Ellis Fire is estimated at 1,277 acres, with 80% containment. The two wildfires are being co-managed as the Divide Complex Fire.
Showdown owner Katie Boedecker told KRTV the deck at the lodge had been filled on a daily basis with several hundred firefighters receiving daily briefings on the fires, and maps showing the latest updates on the fire are posted to the outside of the lodge.
Boedecker said she did not hesitate when the U.S. Forest Service contacted her to ask about using Showdown as a base camp.
Inside the lodge at Showdown on Thursday afternoon, to-go meals were hurriedly being assembled for firefighters. Elsewhere in the lodge, a table was full of grab-and-go items for firefighters, such as granola bars and fruit.
"Rocky Mountain Credit Union out of Helena brought over gobs of food for us,” Boedecker explained. "We're providing the lodge and meals for firefighters specifically. we're doing three meals a day and we're up to about 300 firefighters now."
Boedecker said she's honored to be able to help.
"It's an impressive operation. Right now, we're working with the Gold Team which is a Type 2 team out of Florida and the South. They're just incredible,” said Boedecker.
The lodge isn't just feeding firefighters' stomachs though. To try to help the firefighters, Showdown is printing out positive comments people have made on Facebook and posting those comments on the walls inside the lodge.
"The firefighters are really touched by these. They stop and read them,” said Boedecker. “Some are kind of funny and cute, some are really, really thoughtful and sweet."
Outside the lodge, firefighters sleep in tents around the ski area and have access to a large mobile sink trailer.
"We have three sinks here in the rear. We have four on each side. We have hot and cold water, we have the soap dispensers, paper towels and the mirrors,” said Joe Johnson, the trailer’s owner.
He takes the trailer to natural disasters when requested by first responders: "We give them a place to come in and clean up so they can eat. it's for sanitation. it makes them feel better,” Johnson said.
It also makes Johnson feel good. He explained, "I get to chat with them when they come in, find out how their day went. I get to see them off in the morning. They're very appreciative. they thank me for being here."
Showdown on Wednesday posted a plea for people to help them help the firefighters:
- Work at Showdown: We’re very short-staffed up here and are looking for people who’d like to work full-time, part-time. If you're interested in full or part-time employment please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sign up for a paid volunteer shift: We have set up a link where you can sign up to work shifts as a paid volunteer. We have morning, mid-day, and evening shifts available–7 days a week. All shifts are 8 hours long and pay $100 per shift. We’re short-staffed and could use all the help we can get to make sure the firefighters are well cared for. Please be mindful when you sign up for a shift that we don't have anyone to cover for you and we're depending on you to show up. To view available shifts and sign up, click here.
- Donate individually wrapped snacks and drinks: If would like to donate food or drinks, we have a community donated snack/drink table set up in the lodge where the firefighters can grab extra snacks/drinks to put in their packs for the day. The firefighters have been loving this table! Food and drinks need to be individually wrapped and easy to grab. Please deliver food to Showdown. Some examples of snacks/drinks they enjoy are Gatorade, Capri-Sun, fresh fruit, granola bars, chips, fruit snacks, trail mix, meat sticks, beef jerky, or whatever else you think they'd enjoy!
- Come perform music during dinner: Are you or someone you know a musician interested in donating your talents and time to entertain the firefighters while they eat dinner? Yay! Please email email@example.com to find an evening that works.
Showdown noted that they can't accept cash donations, but recommended that people who wish to donate money can do so at the Wildland Firefighter Foundation website by clicking here.