Thursday, December 11, 2003

Rancher praises community for response to fire
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Published on Friday, September 08, 2006.Last modified on 9/8/2006 at 1:10 am

Rancher praises community for response to fire
By DONNA HEALY Of The Gazette Staff

For Terry and Wyoma Terland, fourth-generation ranchers along Bridger Creek, doing the math can be daunting.

The Terlands estimate the Derby Mountain fire consumed 95 percent of their 11,000-acre ranch. About 40 miles of fence needs to be replaced at an estimated cost of $5,000 to $10,000 a mile.

Although their home, barn and corrals were saved, seven calves and one cow are confirmed dead. Up to 15 more may have to be put down because of injuries from the blaze.

But it was the overwhelming response from the community that Wyoma Terland wanted to talk about Thursday morning.

"We're here because of the heart and soul of this community," she said in a phone interview. Already, offers have come in - offers of temporary pasture, of hay, of individuals willing to help string fence.

A group of four volunteers showed up Thursday morning to help put up fence on some of the remaining 500 acres of unburned pasture. The crew included friends who had gone on trail rides at the Range Riders Ranch in past years. In addition to offering trail rides and a cattle drive on their working ranch, Wyoma Terland leads a ministry for area youths combining horsemanship and religious teachings.

"My repeat customers, they understand and they're friends. They're just going to dive in and help," she said. She also expects church groups to bring out small groups of volunteers to help with fencing.

"If we had to fence it ourselves, it would take years," Terland said. "I have faith in God that he'll see us through."

When the Terlands got the evacuation alert Aug. 29, they were having a supper party for their daughter, who was visiting from Virginia. Her husband was already fighting the fire with other volunteer firefighters. As she started figuring out how she could immediately haul out 20 horses, friends arrived with three additional horse trailers. When Reed Point was put on evacuation alert, and the horses needed to be moved a second time, more trailers materialized to take the horses to a friend's place north of Big Timber. That family ended up with 30 head of horses from three different places, Wyoma Terland said.

As she was making one trip to Reed Point to haul horses, she saw a huge plume of smoke where their ranch house sits, about two miles off Interstate 90. She figured there was a pretty good chance they had lost their home.

She offered high praise for the volunteer firefighters from Big Timber, Reed Point and Melville.

"Those are the best firemen in the whole world and I can prove it," she said. "They saved homes that shouldn't have been saved."

Although the fire continues to wreak havoc, area residents have already begun to respond to the needs to the county's agricultural community.

Marc King, the Sweet Grass County Extension agent, has begun matching names of ranchers who need assistance with people who have hay, trucks to transport hay or fencing supplies. A Bozeman man was among the first to call, with an offer to pay $1,000 to truck donated hay. So far, the list includes the names of four individuals willing to donate hay and two offers of temporary pasture. King is also willing to coordinate lists of people willing to donate supplies, such as steel posts, wire and staples. A volunteer with Sweet Grass County disaster and emergency services will help coordinate volunteer work crews to do fencing.

To help area ranchers, homeowners and volunteer firefighters who have suffered property damage, the Big Timber Ministerial Association plans a concert fundraiser Oct. 1 at the Big Timber Civic Center. The group will raise money to provide gift cards for gas or credit vouchers for fuel costs.

Churches are also starting to put together plans to bring in mission teams to rebuild fence or to organize volunteer teams from area churches. Pastor Bryan Baker at the Evangelical Church in Big Timber has volunteered to help match up teams from area churches with ranchers who need help with fencing.