Missoula Volunteers Finish Avalanche Cleanup

The Feb. 28 avalanche destroyed a home and buried three people

By Beacon Staff

MISSOULA – Volunteers in Missoula have finished cleaning up debris and snow from an avalanche that destroyed a home and buried three people, leading to the death of one woman.

“We’re probably reaching the end of what is recoverable,” Mike Dunn told the Missoulian.

Volunteers on Saturday found boxes filled with photo albums. Items are being taken to a storage unit to be sorted.

The avalanche that roared down Mount Jumbo on Feb. 28 buried a boy playing outside the house and a couple inside.

Eight-year-old Phoenix Scoles-Coburn was recovered after an hour. Retired University of Montana professor Fred Allendorf was pulled from the snow and debris in his house about two hours after the slide. His wife, Michel Colville, was buried for three hours. She died March 2.

Volunteers used shovels to pile debris and snow into a pile in the backyard. There, a heavy loader filled trucks to haul away the debris.

“The heavy machinery really made things go from zero to 60 in a snap,” Dunn said.

The heavy machinery arrived last week, said Tarn Ream, a neighbor who helped organize the volunteers. A key to the cleanup was using the heavy machinery to tear apart the upper floor of Allendorf’s house that had been balancing precariously on its side in a neighbor’s yard.

Some volunteers picked up pieces of glass or nails left behind when the snow melted.

Taking part in the cleanup were neighbors, church groups, fraternities from the University of Montana and members of the Montana Conservation Corps.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been this close to seeing what a real natural disaster is like,” said Chance Carter, one of 10 volunteers from UM’s Sigma Phi Epsilon.

“Everything here has sentimental value to someone. We’re trying to save what we can,” said Spencer Ruchti, another member of the fraternity.

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