UPDATE: Garfield County residents battle fire and frustration - KULR8.com | News, Weather & Sports in Billings, Montana

UPDATE: Garfield County residents battle fire and frustration

Posted: Updated:
Garfield County, Mont. -

UPDATE: On Tuesday evening we spoke with Garfield County DES PIO Anne Miller about the frustrations landowners shared with us in our Monday night report.

Miller explained that the sheer size of the fire has many of the fire crews working long extended shifts, and at times when they are approached to assist, the firefighters are being required to rest. This is a safety procedure.

Miller added; "We've had crews such as BLM crews not be authorized to come off of protecting structures such as homes to go up on the ridge line and fight the fire. That's something logistically they cannot do because they have to stick with their assignments and a lot of locals don't see it that way because they don't realize what the mission is. And, they also don't always realize that it doesn't take much to get a crew moved but we have to wait for approval for them to move around for safety reasons as well."

Geremy Olson with Northern Rockies IMT adds, "We realize that we're never coming to someplace unless something bad is happening. And our marching orders from our incident commander when we first got here is just reminding people that we're working with landowners and volunteer firefighters and more importantly we're working with them to stabilize a very bad situation in their community. And the reason we're here is to help and it's not an us versus them. It's all about working together to get community back in a stable way of life."


Residents in Garfield County are reeling from the Lodgepole Complex Fire.

Farmers and ranchers find themselves thrust into the role of firefighters defending their property from the unpredictability of the fire.

Some residents voiced their frustrations on social media over what they say is the lack of assistance from government agencies.  

Garfield County Commissioner, Teddy Robertson, says the biggest complaint she's heard is locals asking for help from pumper crews on their property only to be told they're not authorized to help.

"We don't have the luxury of sitting back. These people are fighting for their homes, they're fighting for their livelihoods," said Garfield County Commissioner, Teddy Robertson. "They've been lucky enough most of them to keep their homes."

Robertson says she understands the frustrations from both sides and people aren't aware of all the help provided along other parts of the fire. She says their fire warden has done a phenomenal job and she believes coordination has improved.

"I get their frustration, but it does pain me a little because even though they're not feeling the full effects of all of this extra help, these guys are killing themselves trying to put out our own fire," said Robertson.

We reached out to the Bureau of Land Management to find out why the pumper crews said they were not authorized to help even though they were on site. Communications director for BLM, Al Nash, says incident commanders must perform the fire version of triage deciding where the greatest need is and at times that may mean holding resources realizing other very deserving needs go unmet. As far as assistance from FEMA, according to Robertson, the agency says not enough has been destroyed yet, to warrant their help.

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