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Elmo Fire evacuees making use of Polson evacuation shelter

Elmo Fire Polson Red Cross shelter
John Poneroy
Miki Peterson
Posted at 9:45 AM, Aug 03, 2022

POLSON - The Elmo Fire — which has grown to nearly 18,500 acres — has forced evacuations, road closures and destroyed structures.

The blaze at one point came within 200 feet of US Highway 93, forcing the busy road to be closed.

The fire has forced dozens from their homes and caused a shelter to open in Polson.

The Montana Red Cross moved its evacuation center for the Elmo Fire to Polson High School and is providing a safe place to stay for those that have been evacuated from their homes.

Elmo Fire Polson Red Cross shelter
The Red Cross is operating a shelter for Elmo Fire evacuees at Polson High School.

“We set up [Monday] afternoon. We were on standby from the shelter we had setup in Linderman [school] and the fire took off pretty good {Monday},” explained American Red Cross Manager John Peregoy.

Following the quick set up the shelter is ready to provide services to anyone that needs them.

“Our services are comprehensive, and assist in a sense that we provide basic services. We have wrap-around services in terms of medical help and behavioral mental health,” Peregoy told MTN News.

The Red Cross shelter — in conjunction with the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) — has assisted dozens of evacuees.

John Poneroy
American Red Cross Manager John Peregoy

“We could not be successful in setting up or maintaining shelter without the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes involvement,” Peregoy noted. “People are stepping up to meet the needs of people that have been displaced through the wildfire.”

Most of the evacuees that have been using the shelter are still anxiously awaiting updates on the state of their homes.

“I just try and take it in stride and make the best of it and figure it could be worse,” Miki Peterson told MTN News.

Peterson recounted the moment she had to leave her home on Monday as truly surreal.

Miki Peterson
Elmo Fire evacuee Miki Peterson

“Search and Rescue was coming around -- walking each street and stopping at houses -- and telling them it was time to go,” Peterson recalled.

With an endless amount of people in the surrounding area reaching out offering to help in any way possible, Peterson shared her thoughts.

“Just whatever you’d want somebody to do for you if you were in that situation. You know, if you can help, help, if not, well say prayers.”

While the shelter continues to serve as a haven for those that have had to evacuate the hope is that it won’t be needed for longer.