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Wildfire, fire management and air quality news for western Montana and the Northern Rockies.

West Glacier Steps Up To Help Essex Evacuees

Sign greeting visitors to West Glacier Montana
flickr user J. Stephen Conn (CC-BY-NC-2)
Sign greeting visitors to West Glacier Montana

When the Sheep Fire’s growth toward the town of Essex required evacuation of the town and surrounding area Thursday, residents were ready to go, and the nearby town of West Glacier was ready to help. An evacuation center was established just hours after Essex residents were evacuated.

The American Red Cross and the West Glacier Elementary School have been on standby in case an evacuation was ordered in the town of Essex.

Flathead County's Disaster Team Chairman Lew Savik got the call saying Sheep Fire was too close to the town and residents were being evacuated at around 2:15 Thursday afternoon.

"I called the volunteers we have in Kalispell and we had the shelter ready in two hours, about 4:15."

As of last night Savik said they didn’t have anyone who wanted to stay in the shelter. He thinks that’s because residents in the Essex community had more than a week under a pre-evacuation alert to prepare to leave.

Ralph Swain has lived in Essex for 15 years and will be staying with church friends as fire crews battle the Sheep Fire, now within a quarter to a half mile of the town.

"We took mostly personal stuff. Photos critical files, computers. We didn’t try to empty the house out. We figured there was no boundary to that so why even start that drill," Swain said.

About 150 people live in Essex.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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