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For the week of August 23 through 29, 2000

Stanley’s crisis passes—
but not without a prayer

STANLEY—First, they prayed.

Then, they had a blowout party at a local hangout.

And on Saturday afternoon, as smoke swirled from the fires several miles west and north of town, several hundred locals and tourists gathered at Pioneer Park for the Braun Brothers reunion concert.

On Friday, Stanley Mayor Hilda Floyd flew over what’s called the Rankin Fire west of Challis with local pilot Bob Danner. Looking down on the main Salmon and the Middle Fork, she said the smoke was extremely thick.

"It was something else," she told a reporter Saturday afternoon while preparing dinner for guests at her High Country Inn bed-and-breakfast. "The whole sky was nothing but smoke."

As for her town, she said, "we have an evacuation plan if something should happen." It didn’t.

Floyd, 53, has been Stanley’s mayor for about 18 months. She said old-timers recall a wildfire that roared down main street a few decades ago. It was appropriate, she said, that a few dozen residents gathered Friday afternoon at a community building to pray.

"We prayed that Stanley be spared," she said.

Prayers were also said for the safety of firefighters. Special thanks, she said, was voiced for Montana firefighters who pitched in not knowing whether their homes and families were out of harm’s way as fires burned in the neighboring state.

"We prayed for rain and snow, whichever comes first," Floyd said.

Friday evening, a town meeting was held with fire and forest officials briefing residents on how to cope if the fires took an ominous turn.

Also on everyone’s minds was the tourist situation and the imminent concert.

Local campgrounds were packed. The next day, hundreds of locals and tourists would be attending the Braun Brothers concert even as blazes were being fought in nearby national forests.

Later Friday night, more than 300 people jammed a local bar and eatery as some of the area’s Western music talent played and sang until the early hours. There wasn’t a problem with fire officials closing down the party due to overcrowding, because, quipped a local entertainer, they were attending more serious business.

On Saturday morning, about 10 miles south of Stanley, it was like nightfall, the air choked with smoke, while wildfires danced around the community of Atlanta to the southwest. But in Stanley, the sky turned a bright blue with a few puffy clouds. A refreshing breeze kicked up.

At about 1:30 p.m., popular locals Muzzie Braun and his two sons, Willy and Micky, kicked off the concert as a growing crowd put up colorful tents and umbrellas.

"People are in very good spirits," Floyd said. "We want to keep things as normal as possible."

Ron Soble


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