CHOTEAU — The town of Choteau is still reeling from a fire that destroyed the Gunther apartment building on Tuesday. All 20 residents of the building were accounted for by late Tuesday afternoon; two people were taken to Benefis Teton Medical Center in Choteau to be treated for burns and smoke inhalation.
There were no reported injuries among emergency responders; sadly, at least one pet dog perished in the fire.
On Tuesday night, Choteau mayor Chris Hindoien posted on Facebook a "thank you" message to the community; here is an excerpt:
The Incident Command system worked extremely well and my personal thanks to the IC Team. The professionalism of all the VFD’s made you look like full-time career firefighters. Training paid off.
Our EMS and DES people were amazing as well in support of all who were on scene. Thank you Debra Coverdell and volunteers as well.
Keith Van Setten and the Teton Sheriff staff, outstanding work today with all that was going on. Your deputies were top notch at keeping the situation as calm as possible.
The American Red Cross has been here to help with those displaced. All families have been short-term placed elsewhere.
Jesse Oldham and “SALLY 1” my appreciation to you for rounding up a crew and making the trip up to support all who helped fight this blaze.
As we see what is happening around the nation, it never ceases to amaze me that 1680 +/- people can put aside issues and rally for one great cause. There truly is nothing this community cannot take on and handle when we come together as one.
Firefighters from several communities battled the fire, including Choteau, Fairfield, Sun River, Pendroy, and Augusta. At this point, the cause of the fire has not been determined; the state fire marshal is assisting with the investigation.
Steve Dee has created a GoFundMe account so people can donate to help with recovery efforts. The account page notes: "Opportunity Bank has set up a donation account and is matching the first $2,500 donated and Neighbors Helping Neighbors will match the second $2,500 to help these displaced members of our community." Click here if you would like to help.
Reporter Cassandra Soto is back in Choteau today to talk with people about what happened, how they are coping, and what comes next. We will update you if we learn of any other donation drives or fundraisers to help the affected people.
VIDEO FROM TUESDAY, APRIL 20: