PHOTO COURTESY BEN JACOBSEN @benjacobsen

Hope beyond the flames

Community raises $405,000 to help those impacted by Bridger Foothills Fire

Local dentist Peter Schmieding was sitting in the airport preparing to fly to his ailing father’s bedside when flames began spreading toward his home. The devastating lightningsparked Bridger Foothills Fire had started. Life suddenly became chaos, and his wife and daughters were mobilized – tasked with gathering belongings and pets. They sent him a text message: “What do you want us to save?”

Their home is just below the M, near where the fire started. If the winds had not shifted, the house would likely have been one of the first to go, Schmieding said.

“People all came to our aid that night,” he said, and explained first responders with the Gallatin County Sheriff ’s Office and Bozeman Fire Department kept checking on his wife, who stayed behind, while the girls went to stay with friends.

Lives changed forever when the flames hit and the Bozeman community was enclosed by smoke. The data speaks to an unbelievable number of man hours and staggering volunteer effort – all to help 105 individuals and 42 households. A total of 861 donations helped generate the $405,000 used to assist those who lost their homes. According to a United Way press release, those donations surfaced from “direct community donations, hosted events, branded product sales, art auctions and other creative, community-driven efforts.”

Further noted in the press release: “Donors from the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation provided immediate, flexible funding through this fund to Bridger Canyon residents for food, clothing, shelter and/ or expenses incurred in advance or in excess of insurance covered losses. Early and significant support was also generously provided by the Morgan Family Foundation, Morgridge Family Foundation, SWMT Mountain Bike Association, Murdoch’s Ranch & Home Supply, Stockman Bank, and Frances & Townsend Burden Foundation, among other local businesses and private individuals.”

The Bridger Foothills Fire Relief Fund was created by Greater Gallatin United Way and the One Valley Community Foundation, in cooperation with the Southwest Montana Community Organizations Active in Disaster before the flames were even extinguished.

In addition to providing funding to six organizations in order to assist with direct needs of those impacted, $60,000 was allocated to the Gallatin Watershed Council to coordinate and address land remediation efforts such as tree replanting, weed mitigation, landslide prevention and stream health. Financial support was provided to the first responders and other agencies that depleted their resources and supplies in the effort to contain the fire and/ or protect and serve those most impacted.

While there is currently no active fundraising for the fund, approximately $10,000 has been earmarked to provide for ongoing mental health and emotional support for adults and children affected by the fire.

“As you know, I’m always amazed at the generosity of people around here,” he said, noting he often sees the best of people from generous contributions to the nonprofit Tsering’s Fund.

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