Post written by Cody Walk, Commercial Loan Assistant/Lender Trainee.
You’ve got to be tough to be a Montanan.
Last summer over one million acres across the state burned under heat and extreme drought.
This winter the state has experienced a real Montana winter with record snowfall, cold temperatures, and record-setting winds that we haven’t experienced for years.
Extreme weather is a way of life in our state at any given time.
The Lodgepole Complex Fire of 2017, started by a lightning strike, burned over 270,000 acres of both public and private land in and around Jordan.
Of the statewide acreage that burned, nearly one-quarter of the devastation was a result of the Lodgepole Complex Fire that ravaged Garfield and Petroleum Counties.
Beginning on July 19, 2017, this massive fire roared through the prairie of eastern Montana. Unfortunately, we’re no stranger to large fires here, but this one sent shockwaves throughout the state and the rest of the country.
The blaze started out small, but with extreme temperatures and intense gusting winds standard to an eastern Montana summer, the wildfire rapidly became the biggest in the nation, burning an area larger than the size of New York City. Though the loss was tremendous, the community came together to help one another during the very trying times.
If you’ve ever driven Highway 200 to Jordan, it becomes clear that agriculture was, is, and always will be the way of life in Petroleum and Garfield counties.
If you drove Highway 200 immediately following the fire, portions of the highway usually lined to the right and left with crops almost ready for harvest and cattle feeding in pastures, now lay in waste, covered in blackened earth.
Crops were reduced to ash and farmers and ranchers were left wondering how their livestock would survive. Help was on the way. Trucks, loaded with all the hay bales people could spare, began rolling into the area.
One of the trucks read in spray paint: “JORDAN BOUND, MT STRONG.” Help was answered. Every day, people showed up from not only eastern and western Montana but other states across the country to donate their time and resources to the relief efforts.
Stan Markuson, President of Stockman Bank in Miles City, and a Montana native from Ekalaka, saw the need for help and answered the call.
A match fund donation was set-up at Stockman Bank to match any donation up to $10,000. Overall, we as a community helped raise more than $357,000, all of which was donated to the Garfield County Fire Foundation to support relief for the farmers and ranchers affected by the terrible fire.
When asked to comment, Stan said:
“I hoped the fund would generate at least $30,000 – $40,000, but before we knew it the fund had reached $100,000, then $200,000, and it just kept going! The amount of support we received from Montanans across the state was an overwhelming example of how we as Montanans can come together and support our neighbors in time of need.”
Overall, the Garfield County Fire Foundation received more than $1.1 million in donations, and $1 million of this was distributed to the farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods were affected by the Lodge Pole Complex Fire.
Megan Markuson, Stan’s daughter, said it best when she posted on Facebook, “Dad always reminds us that in Eastern Montana, “neighbor” is a verb, not a noun.”