I want to first offer my condolences to all affected by Hurricane Harvey, in Houston and around the country and the world. It has been a horrific tragedy in many ways, including the shock for those who have lost all their worldly possessions let alone those who have lost friends and family. And I encourage anyone and everyone who can afford to, to help with disaster relief through reliable resources. This article is in no way meant to minimize the tragedies and impact of Hurricane Harvey across the Southern United States.
That all being said, I would like to explain why the national media coverage has been unnervingly frustrating for me.
My beautiful home state, Montana, has been burning up for months with very little coverage or outrage of the lack of help we’ve gotten from our Federal Government. As of July 24, 2017, Montana has considered the numerous large wildfires a state emergency, with the executive order coming from Governor Bullock. After already leaving multiple fires to burn for months, this executive order finally allowed for Montana to utilize resources such as the National Guard and other state services to combat the destruction being caused by fires.
To put this in perspective, on August 29th, 2017 evacuation orders were given to more than 1,100 homes in the Seeley Lake area of Western Montana. Thousands more homes and families are being put in danger by various other fires throughout the state including those in Lolo, MT and throughout Ravalli County. There was no way of knowing that these fires would become such huge problems to these areas due to the fact that they were quick to ignite through lightening strikes. Because of this, there was very little warning for people to get their personal items or pets and livestock together before having to leave their homes. Thousands of people are being forced to find temporary housing situations and are scared of losing everything.
Firemen and women have been putting their lives in danger’s way for months with very few chances to catch a couple hours of sleep and rest. Resources are scarce and with so many large fires on the doorstep of populated areas of the state, they seem to be outnumbered in many ways. Already two firefighters have lost their lives protecting their fellow statesmen. And without reasonable resources available, it’s possible more casualties are to come.
While I am not one of those directly affected by the wildfires, as I haven’t had a close friend or family member die and I haven’t had to move my belongings out of harm’s way, there is another issue affecting Western Montana.
For weeks the city of Missoula, MT has been blanketed in thick smoke, along with many other valleys in the area. The smoke has been so terrible that we are unable to see the usually prominent mountainous backdrop of the state we love so much. Almost everyone I know has had health concerns due to the smoke varying from headaches to vigorous bloody noses. For populations at risk to even more harm, such as the elderly and young children, the smoke has been even worse causing people to visit hospitals and clinics – looking for some kind of relief.
The reason all of this information is pertinent to Hurricane Harvey in any way whatsoever is the fact that our Federal Government has refused to come to the aid of the people of Montana for months. It is clear why attention is currently on Harvey Relief efforts. The hurricane is affecting a vast population of people in the South. Its destruction has been horrendous and the people need help.
However, it is frustrating that the mainstream media has, if talked about it at all, kept the fires in Montana as fluff pieces for the months that the fires have been raging. It is frustrating to wake up one day to Facebook suggesting I give aid to those in Houston when Montana has been left to fend for itself.
It is frustrating to feel as though our lives and well being are seen as less important simply because we live in a less populated state, rarely thought of by our fellow countrymen.
So this is a hopeful call to action. My hope is that this can be an eye-opening moment for the country – to see that there are others in dire need of help. I hope that our Federal Government will see the need for more resources in Montana and declare a Federal state of emergency before fires begin to threaten larger cities. I am worried that Montana will fall farther to the bottom of concerns of the United States of America. But I am hopeful that the compassion of the American people can focus on two tragedies at once and come to the aid of Southern states as well as Montana and other states in the Northwest.