HELENA — The Helena Fire Department responded to a fire at the 1000 block of 11th Avenue around 11:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 28.
Upon arrival, fire crews found one of 13 apartments well involved in fire, extending from the first story up the front of the building.
Initial responding units successfully contained the fire and rescued two occupants from the second story above the fire. Mutual aid response included: Ft. Harrison, Montana City, West Valley Fire Departments as well as St. Peter’s EMS, Helena Police Dept., and Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office.
Two people were transported by EMS for smoke inhalation but are in stable condition according to Helena Fire. Around 20 people were displaced as a result of the fire. The cause is under investigation by the Helena Interagency Fire Investigation Team.
The 11th Avenue fire is the second of its kind in September, with a fire at the Tower Hill Apartments displacing 30 to 40 residents earlier this month. The American Red Cross of Montana is offering assistance for those who were forced to evacuate their home.
“Last year alone we helped about 740 people across Montana after a disaster. The most common disaster we respond to are home fires, apartment fires we respond to disasters across the state every year,” said Matt Oschner, American Red Cross of Montana and Idaho Communications Director.
American Red Cross of Montana responded to the 11th Avenue fire around 12:30 a.m. to provide care and financial assistance for those displaced. Susan Hawthorne, the Lewis and Clark Action Team Leader, was on the scene.
“Initially with big apartment fires, we tried to open a shelter initially, but because it was so early in the morning and we didn't necessarily have all the volunteers that were able to come in and assist with me, we elected to decide to start client casework immediately, so at 1:30 in the morning we could get somebody into a hotel that needed to get dressed and get ready to go to work the next day, and so that was the decision,” said Hawthorne,
The American Red Cross also provided the displaced residents with blankets, mental health services and helped provide new medications and even dentures.
The most important thing for the organization was getting the residents in a safe place to stay.
"The market is tight for rentals, and when you become displaced then you're pretty much homeless. So then it's like when we step in and say we're going to provide and financial assistance so that you can have a safe place to go, and most of the times they're able to go into a hotel for a few days,” said Hawthorne.
Oschner says the organization cannot continue doing the great work, without its volunteers.
“About 90% of our workforce are volunteers and they make a big impact across the state every day and we appreciate it,” said Oschner.