GREAT FALLS — There are scores of people recovering from recent wildfires in and around Great Falls and Denton, and the American Red Cross is partnering with several organizations to make sure people get the help they need in the aftermath of the fire.
On December 1, 2021, a wind-driven wildfire destroyed at least 11 homes and many other structures in the Gibson Flats area southeast of Great Falls; three suspects have been charged for that fire. That same day, the West Wind Fire forced the evacuation of the entire town of Denton in Fergus County. At least 13 homes were destroyed in that community as well as businesses, bridges, and grain elevators.
The American Red Cross hosted a multi-agency "resource center" at Montana ExpoPark on Saturday for people affected by the fires. The goal was to make the process as seamless as possible so people that need help can get it all in one spot from people that are eagerly stepping up to help their neighbors.
Lori Waddell helped organize the event, and said it’s been great to help people that need it and had a lot more help than she was expecting.
“We had organizations show up that we didn’t even ask or call. They just kind of heard about the event and wanted to come and offer their services which is fantastic. We have a great community in Great Falls so a lot of nonprofits, a lot of churches, a lot of businesses have stepped up to make donations for long term and short-term needs,” Waddell said. “The most important thing is for people to learn that there are resources. There is help. We can help with a lot of different things.”
One of the partners for the event is A1 Contractors, who is donating labor and material to reinstall roofs that were lost in the Gibson Flats fire. They estimate they’ll replace about 18 to 25 roofs as an initial estimate and are working with suppliers to figure out logistics, but the ball is rolling and A1 and all the other partners are glad they can help where they can.
A1 vice-president Joe Brannon said he talked with at least 12 friends from the Gibson Flats area and is glad to be able to help a community he is very familiar with.
Brannon said, “I lived out in Gibson Flats for seven years, and it’s been two years since I lived out there. These guys out there are just completely devastated. Everything is gone right before the holiday season and it’s tough to see friends like that, just down. A1 Contractors is coming forward to donate all of the labor for the roofing in the area. We’re trying to team up with Pacific supply so they can donate the materials and we can come forward with the labor to replace all the roofs in that area.”
The multi-agency center was a one-day event to get people in the right direction and if people need help in the future, they can call the American Red Cross.
If you lost your house or your roof in the Gibson Flats fire, you can call A1 Contractors at 406-453-7000.