- Associated Press - Saturday, July 29, 2017

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A Helena man’s desire to help ranchers affected by wildfires in eastern Montana turned into a large relief effort that included donations of tons of hay and veterinary medicine.

Dustin Maier said his effort began with a Facebook post on Tuesday to see if anyone wanted to donate hay for the ranchers affected by the a wildfire.

“I just decided I have a one-ton truck and don’t mind working,” Maier told The Billings Gazette (https://bit.ly/2tMGyKT ). “From there it really exploded, and the community just jumped together.”

On Friday, he set out from Helena in a caravan of at least seven pickups and three semis loaded with more than 100 tons of hay, fencing supplies and other items destined for the Winnett area.

Maier, a journeyman lineman and photographer from Helena, said that hay came in from all over the Helena area. The caravan planned to stop in Lewistown to pick up more hay rounds on the way, and he said a separate crew was bringing bales from Avon.

One ranch family planned to send out a truck to perform veterinary services and donate animal medications if needed, Maier said.

So many people jumped in to help the effort that he couldn’t name them all, Maier said.

Hay was in high demand for ranchers whose animals have been displaced from the scorched grazing grounds burned by the fires that burned about 421 square miles (1,090 kilometers).

Maier said that he was just a guy with a truck who wanted to help. The rest of the effort ballooned as more and more people chipped in with donations.

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


Information from: The Billings Gazette, https://www.billingsgazette.com

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