Notes from St. Joe’s - Boulder Fire Response
While the start of August is usually a time of relaxation and fun on the lake here in Polson, the Boulder 2700 fire certainly changed that feeling for us this summer. I was fishing early Sunday morning and was somewhat alarmed by the number of airplanes and helicopters flying along the East shore. By noon my phone with ringing off hook with updates and stories about the fire. My throat went dry when I heard that we were losing structures and our friends and families were escaping the flames with just the clothes on their backs. My heart aches as I see new pictures of the devastation. By the time I made it into town Erin Rumelhart, Director of Nursing, was at the Red Cross shelter and she along with the help of several others had the beginnings of an Emergency Operations Center well established. Over the following two days many of us spent more time at the shelter than our homes; and once again I was left speechless after experiencing the generosity and kindness of this town.
In a matter of hours, the foyer to the brand new Linderman gym was awash with volunteers and food and clothes and supplies. It seemed like the entire town pitched in to ensure that those in need were taken care of. The dentists brought cases of toothbrushes and toothpaste. The veterinarians set up animal drop off stations. St. Luke’s sent people and supplies. The relationship we established with the state during the pandemic proved invaluable as Health Department personnel rolled into the shelter. The movie theater offered free movies and a cool place to rest. The school gave us their brand-new unused gym. Our partners from the tribe worked tirelessly to help. Red Cross volunteers arrived from across the valley. Local restaurants and churches brought nourishment in every form. Polsonites continuously called and offered bedrooms and campers and apartments for those that had no place to stay. One woman I spoke to said “… I can take six horses and six dogs and six people. Here’s my number, call me the second you need me.”
Without the list from the shelter, I cannot begin to name everyone that has helped to ease the way for those that are suffering right now, but I know that our foundresses, the Sisters of Providence, would be smiling if they could see the compassion this town has shown over the last several days. Having lived across this country I can tell you that the amount love I have witnessed here in Polson recently is extra-ordinary. I am eternally grateful to be a part of Providence and this beautiful little town on the shores of Flathead Lake.
Chief Operating Officer, St. Joseph Medical Center