Montana State Firefighters Memorial efforts gaining momentum

By: 
KATHLEEN GILLULY
Outlook managing editor
Outlook photo by Kathleen Gilluly. This statue of a firefighter sits in the center of the park which is being transformed  into the Montana State Firefighters Memorial with the help of volunteers and donations from local businesses.
Outlook photo by Kathleen Gilluly. This statue of a firefighter sits in the center of the park which is being transformed into the Montana State Firefighters Memorial with the help of volunteers and donations from local businesses.

Former Laurel Mayor Ken Olson is excited about the progress that’s been made fundraising for the Montana Firefighters Memorial, just east of Laurel’s Public Safety Complex.

“The work we have completed would not have been possible without the support of the community,” he said.”We’re not ahead of the game yet, but we’re on firmer footing going forward.”

The committee working on getting the memorial built has a lot of work ahead of them, but its task has been made easier with the help of volunteers and donations. Committee members hosted a street dance in September that raised about $10,000, Olson said. They have gotten help in the form of labor and plants for the most recent work on the memorial from River’s Edge Landscaping, and a few weeks ago they received a $10,000 donation from CHS.

“Dylan Robertus of Montana Iron Works has stepped up to help weld brackets for the signs, too” Olson said. “Without the help of these businesses, the Laurel Volunteer Fire Department and all the individual supporters, we would be foundering.”

Olson, who was a volunteer firefighter for 22 years, wants the public to understand that the scale of the memorial is such that the work won’t be completed overnight.

“We have a vision for the fence and the walls,” he said. “But, we are working with a lot of people around the state and hope to leverage any money we raise.” Olson hopes to be able to get some matching funds from the Tax Increment Financing District down the road. In the meantime, the group is preparing to order the three black marble walls that will transform the park into a memorial. 

The largest wall will bear an inscription detailing the memorial’s purpose and a Maltese Cross, a badge of honor recognizing the willingness of firefighters to sacrifice their lives for their fellow man. It signifies the courage inherent in firefighters who are often just a ladder’s rung away from death. The other walls will memorialize the men and women who have died in the line of duty.

“Montana has about 30 firefighters whose names will be etched onto the wall,” Olson said. “Our records aren’t complete but we are seeking names from fire departments around the state.”

He noted that the committee does have the names of those who died fighting the Mann Gulch fire in 1949. That blaze alone killed 13 firefighters.

Donations are welcome and may be sent to:  Montana State Firefighters Memorial committee, P.O. Box 1195, Laurel, MT 59044

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