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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana Donates $25,000 in Response to North Hills Fire

Money will aid Lewis and Clark Rural Fire Council, Red Cross of Montana in recovery efforts and in preparation for future emergencies

HELENA – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) is donating $25,000 to two organizations to aid in response and recovery efforts after the North Hills Fire near Helena recently burned about 5,000 acres and forced the evacuation of nearly 500 homes.

The Lewis and Clark Rural Fire Council will receive a $15,000 disaster relief grant, while $10,000 will be distributed to the American Red Cross of Montana.

“It’s huge,” said Dave Sammons, president of the Lewis and Clark Rural Fire Council. “We don’t have a revolving income for the fire council. We have a lot of assets that we all share, and this will help keep those assets ready to use.”

No structures were lost and no injuries were reported in the fire, largely thanks to tireless work of rural fire departments from the greater Helena area. The Lewis and Clark Rural Fire Council was formed for situations exactly like the North Hills Fire. According to the organization's website, "The cooperative efforts and cohesive teamwork create an enhanced public service effort pertinent to the Rural fire service."

The mission of the cooperative was on full display as local fire crews along with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation led the initial response to the North Hills Fire on July 26. High temperatures, low humidity and windy weather helped stoke the fire as it swept through the timbered North Hills and threatened numerous homes and other structures for more than a week.

As the fire spread, Red Cross of Montana's Helena Chapter established a shelter to provide evacuees with free meals, a safe place to stay, information and access to additional resources.

"We sincerely thank all of the firefighters who were called to action by the North Hills Fire and we are eternally thankful for the strenuous and often dangerous work they do to keep us safe," BCBSMT Manager of Community Relations Jesse Zentz said. "And as always, the Red Cross of Montana is quick to respond in these situations, providing those directly affected by disasters like this with a helping hand and peace of mind."

There are three key phases to Red Cross disaster relief:  preparedness, response and recovery. Preparedness occurs year-round as shelters are positioned across the state and provided with essential supplies needed in the event of a disaster. Response is what occurs when an emergency official makes the determination that a community needs to be evacuated. The last phase of Red Cross disaster relief is recovery, which means helping those directly affected by the disaster get back on their feet.

Nearly 500 personnel were eventually called to action to help fight the North Hills Fire, along with numerous aircraft. Several state and federal agencies contributed to the response.

While the North Hills Fire is mostly contained and residents have been cleared to return home, the fire season is likely far from over. Zentz said he hopes the donations to the rural fire council and Red Cross help bolster response and recovery efforts moving forward.

Media Contact

Jesse Zentz
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana

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