Montana Firefighters Memorial Run

Runners kick off the 5K run during the inaugural Montana Firefighters Memorial Run in downtown Laurel on Friday.

Ten months after the Montana State Firefighters Memorial was dedicated in Laurel, the community was back to continue fundraising for the finishing touches on the park.

On Friday evening, about 200 people from the community and Billings ran in the inaugural Montana Firefighters Memorial Run, including a 5K and one-mile course.

The 5K run started promptly at 7 p.m. on West First Street near the Memorial Park. The finish line of the 5K loop ended in front of the Laurel fire station, which sits just behind the park. 

Fire trucks were going to spray runners as they crossed the finish line, but the unseasonably cold weather in the 50s and gusty winds made organizers decide to forego the water spray.

But, ice cream, free snacks, firefighter hats for kids, and food trucks still welcomed tired runners at the finish line.

All the proceeds from the run go toward the memorial, and more than $10,000 was raised, event organizer Amber Parish said.

Despite the dedication in the fall, about $300,000 is still needed to complete the memorial, Parish said.

Landscaping, fencing, and an arch are still needed for the plaza that was dedicated in September 2018, according to the Montana State Fire Chiefs Association.

“It’s an on-going thing,” Peggy Olson said. Olson’s husband, Ken, is a chair for the association, and Olson is closely involved in the project too.

Eventually they hope to expand the memorial to honor firefighters who have served for 20 years or more. For Olson that would mean her husband, a Laurel Volunteer firefighter of 22 years, would have his name honored.

The dedication came after a 14-year effort to make the memorial a reality. The memorial honors 73 firefighters who were killed in the line of duty throughout the state since 1895.

Montana Firefighters Memorial Run

Participants line up in front of the Montana State Firefighters Memorial at 215 W 1st Street for the inaugural Montana Firefighters Memorial Run through Laurel on Friday.

“Most all states have a memorial to fallen firefighters so we were just a little behind the curve, but we’ve got it going,” Olson said.

Laurel Deputy Fire Chief J.W. Hopper didn’t run, but watched outside the fire station as runners crossed the line.

Fundraising still in the works include an event in September at the memorial and a statewide raffle in October, Hopper said. One raffle prize is a trip to see the Boston Red Sox play a home game, he said.

Laurel has done the state proud with the memorial and community involvement needed to continue fundraising, he said.

“This is a statewide memorial. It’s for the entire state. We’re just lucky enough to have it next to our station,” Hopper said.

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Night Reporter

General assignment reporter for The Billings Gazette.