LEWISTOWN, Mont. - When the South Moccasin Fire continued to grow to over 10,000 acres, so did the small-town generosity with donations for firefighters and livestock rescues at area ranches.
The Montana DNRC Incident Commander David Hamilton said they were dealing with a shortage of firefighters and resources from the start of the South Moccasin Fire as four other fires around the state spread quickly or reignited due to dry and hot weather conditions.
Hamilton said that October is technically not in fire season and many DNRC summer staff were college kids and other workers who had gone back to their regular jobs.
The local fire departments such as the Moore, Lewistown and Hilger were first on scene doing what they could to slow the quick spreading fire in their jurisdictions.
Montana DNRC firefighters set up a makeshift campsite at the Fergus County Fairgrounds as more resources from around the state began to arrive and were greeted by dozens of community volunteers and food donations at the 4-H Food Booth.
“We’re just telling everybody that comes through the line, we’re saying, 'Fill your pockets, fill a box take stuff,'" Lewistown resident and volunteer Jennifer Saunders said.
The South Moccasin Fire has drawn over 200 total fire personnel to Lewistown to fight the 12,800 acre wildfire.
“In the space of about six hours we received enough donations to feed 250 people lunch, dinner, breakfast and lunch the next day,” donation organizer Chris Cooler said.
Some of those helping hands stayed to help out and make sandwiches and organize donations into large piles around the 4-H Food Booth.
“It’s just so heartwarming to see everybody that will jump in and get involved, so tons of volunteers and assembly lines making sandwiches and filling lunch sacks and it’s been wonderful,” Saunder said.
Lewistown resident Donna Martin watched area ranchers and farmers drive up dirt and gravel roads with trailers to help save livestock who were in the path of the fast-moving wildfire.
"I had stopped and was talking to a gentleman and they were trying to find help getting their cows in and so more people showed up and we all just ended up pulling together and getting their cows off that pasture and we were like maybe a mile and a half, two miles away from the fire," Martin said.
If you are interested in helping out with donations, organizers ask that you only donate money to the South Moccasin Fire Relief Fund on the Montana Winter Fair website here.