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Red Cross helps families displaced by apartment fire in Great Falls

Posted at 10:31 PM, May 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-02 13:27:32-04

GREAT FALLS — After a fire last week at the Glacier Apartments in Great Falls left 31 families displaced, the Red Cross stepped in to provide all families food and temporary shelter.

As the first major fire she’s ever experienced in her years of property management, Glacier Apartments manager Luanne Vanover Spragg wasn’t sure what the future held for many of her tenants.

“It is concerning - because a lot of them didn’t have renters insurance- that they would just have no place to go. I had no idea that the red cross stepped up like they stepped up. And they’ve been phenomenal. You know, you think about blood drives and disaster, you don’t really think about an apartment fire or something, that’s just what they do, but they have just been remarkable,” Vanover Spragg said.

Matt Ochsner, communications director for Red Cross of Idaho and Montana, said while the Red Cross is commonly associated with large-scale disasters, the majority of their relief efforts are directed to apartment and house fires like this. “Every year we respond to hundreds of disasters in Montana and of course we respond to floods and wildfires, but the vast majority of the disasters we respond to are home fires and apartment fires just like these,” Ochsner said.

As part of their relief efforts, the Red Cross found housing for each of the 31 families, spread throughout Great Falls, and paid for their rooms at the Heritage Inn over the past week.

Ochsner said a variety of people stepped up to help with housing needs, including tenants’ family members and friends, veteran organizations, and other hotels.

“We’ve been working with a lot of community partners...we’re just reaching out to other members of our community. and again, it’s just a good example of neighbors helping neighbors, and really helping people on their path to recovery,” Ochsner said.

More than 10 volunteers and a few staff members banded together with local businesses to provide the residents food, shelter, and furniture.

Ochsner said he and the tenants are grateful for the community’s willingness to help. “I just want to say how much we appreciate our community partners for making all this work possible, all the businesses that have stepped up, all our volunteers who help with this work, and our generous donors who help us prepare for these disasters and put us in a place where we can respond quickly and help these people who are displaced by disaster meet their most immediate needs,” Ochsner said.