Wildfire “Wreaks Havoc” On Montana Amish Community; 40 Buildings Lost (Updated)

News of a wildfire in the vicinity of the Rexford, Montana Amish settlement (West Kootenai) began appearing over the past few days.

Initial reports were that the Amish community was “OK”.

Today brings different news. The Amish have in fact been hit hard – so far losing a total of 40 buildings – 10 homes and 30 outbuildings – to what’s being called the Caribou Fire.

Another report described the fire as “wreak[ing] havoc on Montana’s oldest Amish community”:

The lightning-caused Caribou fire ignited miles to the west and had burned nearly 2,000 acres across the Canadian line by Monday. Firefighters were working Tuesday to establish a line as wide as a football field to protect the remaining structures in West Kootenai.

“It’s still dangerous in there,” said Don Simon, information officer for the Type II management team deployed on the fire.

The concern is that the fire, which struck from the southwest, is circling around the West Kootenai community. It was moving to the southeast on Tuesday afternoon.




“Basically what they’re worried about is if it flanks them and gets trapped in there, they’ll lose that community,” Simon said.

Yoder said the Amish families and their neighbors received pre-evacuation notices from Bowe’s officers Saturday morning. The feeling then was they would have until Sunday to get out.

It didn’t happen.

Darinda Yoder describes her community as being “in shock”:

“We left at 6 (p.m. Saturday), and we were there too long. We should have left earlier. The fire came down so fast they almost didn’t get us out,” Yoder said.

She wishes now she hadn’t been there to see the flames rolling down across the mountain, a terrifying sight when they’re coming straight at you.

“I don’t think it would have affected me the way it is now if I’d not seen the fire,” she said.

Darinda’s comments bring home how ferocious wildfires can be. This one tripled in size over the weekend, to nearly 20,000 acres.

Caribou Fire photo by Amy Currie Hughes, taken Saturday afternoon

Hopefully the Amish will have something to rebuild when this is over. It sounds like everyone is out safely, at least. Amish evacuees are staying with families in Rexford or camping nearby in RVs.

The fire has been classified as “the number one priority in the nation for resources needed” due to the losses and number of buildings under threat.

Update (Friday): 

Relief Money – For those who wish to contribute to relief funds, Leona Mast shares the following in the comments below:

For those asking how to donate, here is an address to send checks to. 100% of the funds will go to those who have lost homes and for rebuilding purposes. If you want it to be specifically for the Amish put that in the memo as well. Eureka Chamber of Commerce PO Box 186 Eureka, MT 59917 Memo: West Kootenai Fire Relief THere’s also a “GO FUND” account set up under “West Kootenai Fire” where you can make donations. Thanks!

More details – According to this report, a total of 175 fire personnel are fighting the blaze, with an expected containment date of October 30. The strategy is described as “half containment and half suppression”.

The linked article contains reports on three more ongoing Montana fires in addition to this one. The four together cover over 30,000 acres. Wildfires are just a reality of life in the Treasure State.

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17 Comments

  1. Alexander

    Praying

    So sorry to hear about this. This is a tragic loss for the Amish community. I will ask all my family and friends to pray for the Montana Amish. I am so sorry to hear about this loss. This is a lot of buildings and I am sure their community will take quite some time to recover from this loss. God be with them.

  2. Tammy Vaughn

    Praying

    There is devastation all around. My prayers will be with them. I thank God they are a community who lifts each other up. Jesus is coming soon and we won’t lose anything ever again.

  3. M.H.G.

    Wreaks Havoc on Montana Amish

    Support All!

    > SO SORRY, to hear the sad loss of the Amish Community
    in Montana! Montana is a beautiful place too..
    OUR family will be praying….
    _____________________________________________________________
    > Last year, the Smoky Mts.(Gatlinburg TN) caught on fire also..
    (A National Park! National Treasure) All were effected…
    Nearby are Amish Stores at Sevierville & Pigeon Forge TN..

  4. Paula

    Fund to help Amish?

    Can you post and/or have them post in the Budget a place where donations can be sent maybe at a bank or Amish Aid?

    1. Robyn

      @paula...Fund to help Amish

      Paula I work for FedEx Ground here in Kalispell and we putting together supplies for the families to take this weekend. I’m not sure if they have a fund set up at the bank yet but I will check into that. Could you possibly email me at my email at diezpack@gmail.com and I will give you my cell phone # and pass on any information I find.
      Thank you and God Bless!

      1. Robyn if you do find out and can let me know, I’ll share it here on the site as well. You can reach me in the comments or at ewesner(at)gmail(dot)com. Bless you for your work to help out!

        1. Leona Mast

          For those asking how to donate, here is an address to send checks to. 100% of the funds will go to those who have lost homes and for rebuilding purposes. If you want it to be specifically for the Amish put that in the memo as well. Eureka Chamber of Commerce PO Box 186 Eureka, MT 59917 Memo: West Kootenai Fire Relief THere’s also a “GO FUND” account set up under “West Kootenai Fire” where you can make donations. Thanks!

          1. Thanks, Leona. I’ll update the post with this info.

  5. Al in Ky

    Thanks for this update and for posting this sad news. I was aware of the fire threatening the Rexford Amish community, but did not know it had gotten so close and caused the people to evacuate.

    In the Aug. 30 edition of The Budget newspaper last week, the Rexford, Montana, scribe reported that on Aug. 24, “We got a light shower of rain, which didn’t last very long here but hopefully up where the fires are it rained enough to help quench the fires.”
    I’m sure the Rexford scribe will now have reports of the fire reaching their settlement.

    If I read in The Budget of where donations can be sent for the Amish fire victims, I will post it here.

  6. Barbara

    Must be Horrifying

    As long as no one is severely injured or killed everything will be alright. Such hard times for some people to overcome these past couple of weeks; now the people of West Kootenai. Of all the places in the US, this is where I would live if I could.

  7. Maggie E

    Prayers

    So sorry to here about this. I’m so very relieved that no-one was hurt!
    My thoughts and prayers are with you. When able, please ask your Bishop how we can help. God be with you all,

  8. Fires in Montana

    I live in Eureka Montana and am within 1 mile or less from the “Fire Camp” where this reporter was reporting from. I have toured this “Fire Camp” just
    today and am amazed at the efficiency of these setups! They feed 470 firefighters three meals a day. They have showers trailers, portable kitchens, insulated and air conditioned medical tents, etc. Its an amazing setup. I visited and went along delivering groceries to The Amish who are mostly staying in Canadians vacation homes around the Rexford and Eureka areas. The homes and structures that burned are not all Amish, but other locals as well. One family from our church who have 7 children lost EVERYTHING! The Red Cross is providing 3 meals a day for the evacuees that don’t have other options. We are hosting a FULL house of evacuees ourselves. Fires are presently burning east and west of us where we have seen flames shooting possibly several hundred feet high! The billowing smoke has enveloped us the last several days to where we can see only a short distance. It is unbelievable! Pray for the community and the brave firefighters who are laboring day and night to try and keep us all safe! Our son who lives in the Kootenai and is a volunteer firefighter has left the Kootenai only once since the fires. He came out to see his wife and children for a brief time only.

    1. Wow Mary, thanks for sharing these additional details from the scene. Sounds intense.

      Stay safe and yes let’s keep both the firefighters and all families in mind and in prayers. If you have time, I hope you’ll check back in and let us know how it’s going. Thank you!

  9. Juanita Cook

    So much devastation going on these days. Prayers going up for all. And also for a good rain to stop these fires.

  10. More info on the Caribou Fire

    This is from another article dated Sep 5, with details on the fire’s size and estimated containment date. 175 people are fighting the fire:

    http://www.krem.com/news/local/wildfire/western-montana-wildfires-cause-evacuations-in-kootenai-national-forest/471401993

    —The Caribou fire is in Kootenai National Forest near the Idaho-Canada border, about 18 miles northwest of Eureka, Mont. It is burning 17,089 acres as of September 5, and is 10% contained, according to inciweb.com.

    There is a full evacuation order in effect for West Kootenai, north of Tooley Lake, said the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.

    It was started on August 11 by a lightning strike.

    The strategy with this fire is half containment and half suppression, with incident commanders Shawn Pearson and Bob Habeck in charge.

    There are 175 total personnel battling this blaze, according to inciweb.

    They are estimating the containment date to be October 30 for the Caribou fire.

  11. Alice Mary

    Act of God, Mother Nature

    No matter how smart (rich, intelligent, savvy, “connected”) we feel we are, all it takes is an act of God/Mother Nature to put us in our proper place! The lightning strike, the hurricanes, Mexico earthquake, etc., should give us all pause as to who/what is REALLY in charge. We need to feel humbled enough to know that there, but for the grace of God, go WE. I hope we can all help somehow, as much as we possibly can. Prayer and positive thoughts go out to all affected by ALL these horrifying events. We’re only human, after all!

    Alice Mary

  12. A benefit auction has raised around $44,000 for the fire victims:

    http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/eureka-community-comes-together-to-help-caribou-fire-victims/article_05a6efa1-e045-5ea4-885b-e409c3662fd3.html

    “I know there were people there who really couldn’t afford to help, but they were there anyway. That’s what they do here in this community,” said Lincoln County High School principal Joel Graves. “Our community of Eureka and the surrounding area always steps up when people are in need. It’s an amazing place to live.”