RED LODGE - For Western Montana's emergency responders the recent floods in Carbon County are a chance to help Montana neighbors, but also add to their knowledge of dealing with floods on this side of the Divide.
The 15 first responders from Western Montana have been rendering expert help, but also learning even more to help in future catastrophes.
The Western Montana Incident Management Team represent the highest skill levels in dealing with "all hazards" emergencies, and were ready to quickly respond Monday when Carbon County officials called for help to deal with the floods on Rock Creek through Red Lodge, and the other surrounding communities.
Team Member Mel Holtz of the Frenchtown Rural Fire Department says he and his colleagues have spent the week helping with tasks like Incident Command and logistics, to public information, and helping estimate damage so residents can get federal emergency funds and flood insurance to rebuild.
"Now this flood took out roads, took out bridges, also took out infrastructure and power, water and sewer. So they've got a lot of damage here," Holtz told MTN News. "Our team is on the ground here from Missoula to assist those local efforts to coordinate some of that to get additional resources here that they badly need."
Holtz and other members of the team are no strangers to flooding, having coped with the record floods we had in Western Montana in 2018. But he says there are distinct differences between what Missoula experienced, and what happened in Carbon County.
"So in Missoula 2018 floods the water kind of slowly rising and then stayed. This was more of a flash flood event. Sunday night here the fire department was called out and it was nonstop from Sunday until waters receded basically on Monday. So mid-afternoon on Monday."
For Holtz and the Western Montana responders, this week's floods are both a reminder, and a lesson of how important preparation, and safety, can be. Even when it's the totally unexpected disaster.
"We have a lot of bridges and roads that are out and it's undercut underneath the road, so we still have a lot of public going to check out the damage to area and we're just advising them to keep clear. At the moment we have a lot of heavy equipment that's moved in and a lot of work going on to repair these roads and bridges happening now."
The Missoula area responders are expecting to continue helping out over the next several days.