Wildfire Prep Week: Residents of home lost in Lolo fire look back


MISSOULA, Mont. - Just shy of a year ago, the Lolo Creek Complex wildfire tore through the forests along Highway 12, southwest of Missoula, and put more than 4,000 people on evacuation notice.

Residents, fleeing their homes through thick smoke, under the thunder of helicopters overhead, said the area resembled a war zone.

Through the brave work of volunteers, National Guardsmen and nearly 1,000 firefighters, most of those people were able to return home -- all except for the residents of five houses, the five no one could save.

Ben and Lynn Baker, the residents of one of those homes, returned with us Friday to where their house once stood.

"Our front door was probably right about here," described Ben, pointing to the corner of a charred foundation, all that's left of the home.

Lynn says they always knew, in the once heavily-forested area, wildfires were a possibility.

"I had a hard drive with family photos on it that I had written with a black marker ‘Grab in case of fire.'"

She says her husband was able to save the hard drive, but a year later, there are still new things they realize they're missing.

"You always have the game of, well, I need to pick that up when I get home... Wait -- I don't have that anymore," Ben explained.

"But we feel like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was a huge help to us internally," added Lynn.

The Bakers say their faith, friends, and even strangers were essential in helping them recover.

"The support that we received from our church community, from our places of employment, it was phenomenal -- and then from the other agencies. People that we didn't know brought us meals, gift cards that were very helpful."

They say one the most valuable lessons the fire taught them is where their real treasure is.

"You often get caught up in your daily life, the difficulties of what's going on, and often it's good to have events like this bring you back to what's really important."

The Bakers say the American Red Cross and a resource handbook for disaster survivors were very helpful after the fire.

For more information on how you can obtain the handbook, and for more resources on disaster recovery, click here.