NewsLocal NewsFlathead County


Columbia Falls school helps their own after devastating tragedy

Deer Park School Fundraiser
Columbia Falls Fire
Fatal Columbia Falls Fire
Posted at 5:18 PM, Dec 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-02 19:18:32-05

COLUMBIA FALLS — A. Nov. 14 house fire in Columbia Falls tragically took the lives of Jeff Watts and Lowell Smith.

Jeff’s wife Miriam Watts and Lowell’s wife Doris Smith were in the home at the time of the fire and were able to narrowly escape with Doris jumping out of a second-story window to survive.

Jeff and his wife Miriam were pillars in the small Columbia Falls community working as educators at Deer Park School, where Miriam’s parents Lowell and Doris volunteered frequently.

Columbia Falls Fire
The fundraiser will be held at Deer Park School's main building, 2105 Middle Rd, Columbia Falls starting at 5:30 p.m.

On Wednesday night, the Deer Park school district rallied together to host a benefit fundraiser for Miriam and Doris.

“It’s the Deer Park family, so something affects one it affects us all, so it’s the very least we could do for them,” Deer Park School Booster Club President Samantha Olson told MTN News.

A line trickled out the door Wednesday night as the small Deer Park School family hosted a benefit fundraiser for Miriam Watts and Doris Smith.

“Miriam is our librarian, and she also does title work for us, and Jeff was a para-educator and he did a whole lot of work all around and he did a lot of handy work around the campus too, and he just loved being with the kids,” said Deer Park School teacher Melissa Howe.

Former Deer Park Principal Dan Block — who hired both Miriam and Jeff — said the pair immediately bought into the Deer Park family.

WEB EXTRA: Dan Block discusses Columbia Falls fundraiser

“It’s so shocking, they are such great people and fixtures in the community, they just had a real love for kids and the school and so we’re just hoping we can just reach out and help any way we can,” said Block.

The families lost everything in the fatal house fire escaping with only the clothes on their back.

Wednesday’s fundraiser included a spaghetti feed, silent auction, bake sale and bingo with all money received going directly to Miriam and Doris.

“I don’t know what else we would be doing other than showing up and being here, they lost virtually everything, and you know this is the right thing to do,” added Howe.

With only 170 students Deer Park school may lack in size, but it makes up for that size in heart and compassion.

“It’s really nice to be a part of a community that comes together like this, I’ve never seen anything like it, so I mean, I think it’s really spectacular, it’s huge and it shows how much people care about each other here,” added Deer Park School parent Carly Brown.

Miriam’s son Christian said Monday was his mom‘s first day back in the library on a part-time basis. He added being back with her Deer Park school family is the best medicine she can receive.

WEB EXTRA: Christian Watts discusses Columbia Falls fundraiser

“She loves the school, she loves the children and my mom’s been a book worm her entire life, we grew up going to the library every Saturday, so her being a librarian is about the best job on the planet for her, so I’m sure she was excited to come back to work and be around the kids and whatnot,” said Watts.

A GoFundMe page dedicated to the Watts family can be found here.