By Tim Leeds
Members of detachments one and two of the Montana Army National Guard's 433rd Supply Company returned to Havre from duties at the fires in the Bitterroot Valley Friday at about 3:20 p.m.
The soldiers immediately started unloading equipment from the chartered bus before entering a debriefing in the Armory, followed by a welcome home party at about 4:30 p.m.
There were six more members of the detachments who arrived home Sunday, after transporting National Guard trucks to Kalispell.
Christine Dean said Friday that the duties went really well, although she wasn't doing what she expected to be doing.
"We were road guards," she said, "blocking off roads to unauthorized places."
James Madril of Chinook Detachment Two said they were mostly working for the Ravalli County Sheriff's Department keeping residents out of unauthorized areas. He said as the restrictions were lifted, they would let the residents in as far as authorized.
Chinook Mayor Bill Oehmcke, acting first shirt for the group, said they were pretty much at the end of the action. He said the fires were pretty much dying down by the time they arrived in the valley.
"The people down there were very gracious and appreciative," he said. "They had an appreciation day, and when you saw them on the street, they showed it."
Oehmcke arrived just in time for the Chinook homecoming game Friday night and the West Fest Saturday.
Andy Smith, Montana State University-Northern Lights football team's star wide receiver, had already been back to Havre once. Smith was allowed to return to Havre to play in the Lights' first game of the season against the Western Montana College of the University of Montana Bulldogs.
Smith caught a 26-yard touchdown pass in the Lights' 21-7 victory before returning to fire duty.
Members of the company said they were glad it was done.
"Oh, I love being back," said Janice Chaney, "it's nice."
Chaney was wearing a yellow ribbon in tribute to the firefighters and support staff on her Bitterroot Firestorm 2000 T-shirt. She said some members of the detachments had a variety of shirts special ordered to commemorate the duty. Many of the yellow ribbons were being worn.
"I had the honor of pinning a ribbon on the governor when he was visiting," Chaney said.
The detachments of the 433rd had been activated to provide support duty on the firelines on Aug. 28. They left for the Valley complex after more than five hours of safety training to receive their red card certification, which is required to work in fire danger areas.
Support duties at the fire areas include services such as guarding checkpoints, driving the National Guard trucks to deliver firefighters and supplies and refueling helicopters.