A fire hose spraying huckleberries over our local firefighters and first responders, who have been increasingly busy as the fire season heats up. From a barn fire that torched 6,000 bales of hay in Frenchtown to a bonfire started near the North Reserve Street Bridge, to a blaze that scorched up to 8 acres on Waterworks Hill, crews with the Missoula Fire Department, rural fire departments, Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Forest Service have all been hard at work this week. Firefighters everywhere deserve our deepest appreciation for their bravery and dedication in the face of alarmingly hot, dry conditions, and for all they do to protect us and our homes from the threat of fire.
That said, a close call of huckleberries to Missoula for getting through the Fourth of July without any major damage caused by fireworks, even as other communities across the Northwest saw a spate of fires sparked the eve of Independence Day. It was relatively calm in Missoula, despite the fireworks hotline fielding 211 calls from June 28 through July 5, along with 119 requests for service to specific locations. This is actually a decrease compared to the same time frame last year, when a total of 269 calls were made to the hotline, with 199 requests for service.
Dried-up chokecherries to the persistent drought plaguing our region, which led the U.S. Department of Agriculture to declare an official drought disaster in 31 Montana counties. Gov. Greg Gianforte had requested that the USDA declare the entire state a drought disaster area, given that more than 90% of the state is unusually dry this year. This week, Missoula was included among the counties now eligible for drought assistance from the Farm Service Agency.
An entrée of huckleberries to the major facility upgrades under way at the University of Montana. The building boom of more than $100 million in new construction is expected to wrap up in 2025, but several projects already have been completed. The plans include a new College of Forestry, major reconstruction of the dining hall, improvements to the music building, the creation of two main entrances, and residence hall and lecture hall remodels, among other projects aimed at creating a more attractive, welcoming and enjoyable campus for students.
Desecrated chokecherries are due to those responsible for vandalizing the Doughboy statue on the Missoula County Courthouse lawn. Missoula resident Dennis Gordon wrote a letter this week alerting the community to the damage, and included a photo of the statue showing that the soldier’s rifle bayonet had been bent nearly in half. Gordon noted that it’s not the first time the monument has been vandalized, even though the federal crime is punishable with a $10,000 fine and possible imprisonment. Missoula’s Doughboy monument was erected by the American Legion Auxiliary in 1927 to honor 39 local soldiers who gave their lives during World War I.
Sun-warmed huckleberries to Satic Solar for donating a 30-panel solar system to Watson Children’s Center. The emergency shelter for abused and neglected children expects to save between $200 and $300 a month on energy bills thanks to the new solar array, money it can put to good use providing care for the 100-or-so kids who stay at the shelter each year.
This editorial represents the views of the Missoulian Editorial Board: Publisher Jim Strauss, Executive Editor Jim Van Nostrand and Opinion Editor Tyler Christensen.