Stranger Brings Supplies to Farmers Hit by Montana Wildfire, His Actions Snowball Into Massive Donation Drive

July 29, 2017 Updated: October 5, 2018

A Montana man decided to help ranchers affected by the massive Lodgepole Complex wildfire—the largest in the state since 1910.

His call for help sparked a deluge of donations loaded onto a caravan of trucks and trailers that headed for the affected areas this weekend.

Location and size of the Lodgepole Complex wildfire in Eastern Montana, as of July 29, 2017. (Montana

The 270,000-acre fire started on July 19 and has since decimated large swaths of prairies south of the Missouri River. The cause is undetermined.

Last Tuesday, Dustin Maier, lineman and photographer from Helena, Montana, decided to offer his truck to take hay to the affected ranchers.

“I just decided I have a one-ton truck and don’t mind working,” he told Independent Record.

The loss of grazing land is a great hardship for the ranchers.

“A house is considered a major loss, but the livelihood of most people here is the livestock, the pasture, and grazing land,” Garfield County spokeswoman Anne Miller said. “The majority of these people would have rather lost their homes than their grassland.”

Soon, Zach Raymond, Carl Christianson, and others joined Maier. By Wednesday, they had already garnered donations of about 100 tons of hay, with still more supplies pouring in.

On Friday, the caravan of at least seven pickups and three semis embarked on the 300-mile journey.

While federal aid wasn’t approved until Thursday, the donations that poured in were a welcome sign of support.

“It’s just cool to see that Montana can take care of itself,” Maier said.

As of Saturday morning, the fire was 80 percent contained. It burned down at least 16 homes and 10 other structures, but no injuries were reported.

Reuters contributed to this article.

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