SHERIDAN (WNE) — When a fire breaks out on the vast acres of eastern Sheridan County, multiple groups collaborate to extinguish the blaze.
Communication starts with the person who first spots a fire making a call to Sheridan County dispatch, which then calls the personal phone of Clearmont Volunteer Fire Chief Chris Thomas. She then makes calls to deploy the volunteers closest to the fire.
During the course of a fire, surrounding volunteer fire departments often respond to help.
Clearmont was hit with the Waddle Creek Fire in August 2020 that burned 25,600 acres. Crews from throughout Sheridan County, surrounding counties and Montana firefighters all collaborated to help extinguish the fire.
Thomas has about 20 local volunteers she can call at any moment to fight a fire and have them respond. Some complete official training, while others have been fighting fires with generations before them and volunteer with experience in the field.
The acreage included in the Clearmont Fire District spans two-thirds of Sheridan County’s total area.
Sheridan County Fire Warden Chris Thomas — who shares a name with the chief — learns from Clearmont's fire chief about each fire and, depending on the crews at hand, size and intensity of the blaze, will take on a public information officer role and remain in contact with local officials, other fire departments, media and community members.
The Clearmont chief said she contacts local restaurants to coordinate meals for her team, and those wishing to help in that way can contact restaurants to contribute.
The biggest help, though, is volunteering and training to become part of a local volunteer fire department. Fire Warden Thomas said he was amazed and grateful for the continued help and collaboration among volunteer groups.