GALLATIN MEDIA CENTER
When Montanans are in need, we answer the call and in Gallatin County that is no different. Recently five of our own first responders assisted a small central Montana town that was being ravaged by a December wildfire.
On Wednesday, Dec. 1, five responders from Gallatin County were deployed to Denton while the West Wind Fire was burning through the town. They all arrived that evening and began supporting Fergus County with management of the incident. This support was in two areas.
Four personnel were deployed as part of the Montana County Assist Team to manage the fire response. Those included:
- Patrick Lonergan, chief of Gallatin County Emergency Management, who served as deputy incident commander
- Mike Maltaverne, assistant chief of Bozeman Fire Department, who served as safety officer
- Brian Nickolay, chief of Hyalite Fire Department, who served as division/ group supervisor
- Matt Norby, operations captain of Bozeman Fire Department, who served as division/ group supervisor
Jason Jarrett of the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office was deployed as the mutual aid coordinator for the Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association.
These responders engaged in management of the wildland and structure fires, along with initial damage assessment, late on the evening of Dec. 1. The County Assist Team took on responsibility for suppression of the fire and mitigation of the hazards created by the fire. The law enforcement mutual aid relieved local law enforcement so they could get some rest by taking on law enforcement functions such as damage assessment, access control and securing the community.
These personnel all have day jobs in our community, but on short notice departed and were in Denton in a few hours. They each have specialized skills that they have been trained in to help bring structure and stabilize the incident. The County Assist Team has team members from various agencies across the state that come together on short notice as an incident management team to quickly bring structure and support to affected communities to gain control of an incident.
The loss of any structures in a fire is devastating to the owners, and when this many buildings are lost in a community, it is catastrophic. The final number of destroyed buildings in the Denton community will be a noticeable percentage of their building stock and result in a long road to recovery for them.
Our local personnel who responded to Denton took their experience and skills to help Fergus County on their bad day. This statewide participation not only helps our neighbors during their time of need, but builds our personnel’s experience that they then bring back to Gallatin County. We also know that we help others when they need it, and when we have bad days like with the Bridger Foothills Fire, they come help us. No jurisdiction has all the resources they need when a large incident occurs and we all depend on outside help during bad times.