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Firefighters raise money to purchase wildland fire gear

Story and photos by Karen Peterson 

Valley Journal 

ST. IGNATIUS – Volunteer Erich Morigeau, 12, held up a small sculpture and made his way through the crowd for people to get a closer look at it during the 23rd Annual St. Ignatius Fireman’s Auction at the Old Town Field on Saturday.

Erich held up several more auctioned items during the event to raise money for the St. Ignatius Volunteer Fire Department. He even donated a planter that he made. 

His dad, Jeremiah Morigeau, is the department’s chief. While Erich displayed donated items, his dad was on stage looking for bids. Erich’s mom, Annie Morigeau, recorded those bids and numbers on a computer. 

Erich said his family taught him about the value of volunteering. He has grown up watching many family members serve in the community. “It’s important to help people,” he said.

Businesses and individuals donated hundreds of items to the auction including hanging flower baskets, rocks, firewood, oats, tables, chairs, and dental work.

Denise Marks put her bidding number in her hat and waited for items she had her eye on. “We need to support the volunteers so they can do this work,” she said. Having experienced a house fire in the past and the quick response of the St. Ignatius fire crew, Marks knows firsthand how important it is to have the volunteer service.

Assistant Fire Chief Joseph Mitchell said a few more volunteers came on board to help this year. The department was also able to get several self-contained breathing apparatuses and some new radios, but they need more wildland fire gear, which is what the auction money could be used for along with operating costs.

Several hundred people turned out for the event. Volunteers served lunch and kids jumped on the bouncy toys. “This is a good thing for the community,” Mitchell said. “This gets people in the community together.”

The fire department has a storage facility to collect items during the year for the auction, so donations can be taken at any time. For more information, call Mitchell at 406-531-4082. 

Life Flight Network showed people what the inside of one of their emergency transport helicopters looks like. One lady looked in and smiled saying she was sure she would fit if she needed the service. 

Pilot Kris Wyant said the helicopter has carried a man about six feet eight inches tall so fitting wouldn’t be a problem. The medical team includes Ken Gerhard, paramedic, and Laurie Wilson, nurse. They usually transport one to two people to hospitals every day in Western Montana.

Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Division of Fire crew members also attended the event to support the St. Ignatius fire department and share information with the public. CSKT firefighter and prevention specialist Devlin Lafrombois said the hills are green and quiet right now, but crews are ready if drier conditions spark fires in July. He said that while this year’s fire season might not be as bad as last year’s, people still need to take precautions.

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