DENTON - It’s been more than seven months since the West Wind Fire scorched the town of Denton in western Fergus County, forcing residents to evacuate.
Now, a crucial piece has been rebuilt - the bridge over Wolf Creek. The fire destroyed the wooden bridge on Montana Highway 81, cutting off a primary access point to Denton from the west.
The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) says the new bridge is structurally superior to the previous bridge. It is built of concrete, is fireproof, and has a life span estimated at more than 100 years.
A celebration was hosted at the Denton City Library by MDT for community members, as well as people from out of town.
"The community support has been overwhelming. Not just the community support, but from people all over, and businesses and organizations, whether it's through financial resources or manpower. Just the response we've had in the town of Denton has been amazing, and we've done a lot in a short amount of time," Mayor Joel Barber said.
"A big thank you to everybody statewide on how great this state is and how great this community is in dealing with adversity and disasters, and coming together and picking up the pieces and putting them back together," he added.
"It's a nice road. It feels like I'm going back in time to when it was already built, but it's nicer," Ten-year old Bentley Obergfell said.
Nine-year old Caden Joseph Bronac said, "I liked watching them build on the bridge ... It's newer than the other one. Different. I was scared for the firefighters because they were risking their lives to save our town and other towns like Stanford ... I like the new bridge. It's better than the other one, and this time, it won't burn down in the next fire if there is one. I hope not."
The celebration also featured raffles and prizes along with a cookout.
Organizers say it was all about getting the community together for what was a major accomplishment for Denton, and that it's just the start of many more to come.
The West Wind Fire erupted on Dec. 1, 2021. Along with the bridge, the fire burned 10,000 acres, 25 primary residential structures, 18 secondary structures, and six commercial properties, including the town's grain elevators.