Governor presents ‘Spirit of Montana’ award to Missoula firefighters

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Montana Governor Greg Gianforte was in Missoula on Thursday afternoon to present the ‘Spirit of Montana’ award to members of the Missoula City Fire Department for a dramatic rescue that occurred July 16 when a paraglider swung crashed 80 feet into a tree sticking out of Mount Sentinel.

Missoula Fire Department Captain Bill Bennett described what happened that day near UM Married Student Housing.

“We were graciously recognized for a paragliding rescue we performed in mid-July,” said Captain Bennett. “It was an abnormal circumstance which turned out to be a very unique rescue. Thankfully they were able to accomplish the rescue and get the injured person to medical attention as required. We appreciate the Governor’s recognition and for all of us here at MFD We are just happy to do the job and look forward to serving more in the future.

Besides being in a tree 80 feet in the air, we asked Captain Bennett to describe the hardest part of the rescue.

“It was probably about getting them out of his harness,” he said. “Honestly, he’s in his paragliding harness with a parachute above him, and he’s injured, and so without hurting him further, we had to get him out and put him on the ground. So, yes, after gaining access to it, pulling an injured person out of a parachute is not something we do every day.

Governor Gianforte said his “Spirit of Montana” award was created for such a heroic incident.

“I was very pleased to be able to present them with the Spirit of Montana award,” Governor Gianforte said. “We like to find people who do exceptional things and that’s certainly the case here. That’s what the Montanians do. Neighbors helping their neighbors. “They don’t know what they’re going to face every day when they come to work.”

Gianforte recounted the facts of the rescue that led to the award presentation on Thursday afternoon.

“July 16, 2022 was an exceptional day,” he said. “They had a paraglider 80ft up in a tree and they had to bring it down. So I had the pleasure of presenting them with a flag that I flew over the State Capitol in their honor with this certificate, and it’s a way of saying thank you not only to these gentlemen, but to everyone who gets dressed every morning and comes to work to protect us and make sure they are there when we need them.

Missoula’s new mayor, Jordan Hess, also presented the award.

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