Bridger Aerospace’s Kodiak 100 touched down in six western Montana communities to deliver packages that could end up saving lives.
Members of the Bozeman-based aerial wildfire management, response and suppression company were on a mission to help keep those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic healthy and safe by delivering about 150 face shields to first responders, medical clinics and assisted living centers.
Members of the Stevensville Volunteer Fire Department brought one of their fire trucks to greet the crew that landed at the Stevensville Airport at mid-morning Thursday.
Stevensville Assistant Fire Chief Bob Thola had heard about the company’s efforts to distribute their homemade face shields across Montana from a fellow firefighter in Frenchtown.
The Stevensville Fire Department dispatches its own quick response unit on medical calls. Those volunteers operating on the front lines were using homemade masks and the protective glasses they wear to fight fire in hopes of keeping themselves safe from the novel coronavirus.
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“It isn’t much protection if someone were to sneeze on you,” Thola said. “These face shields will make a big difference. If any one of us gets sick, it makes it hard for the rest of us to take anyone else.”
Ben Keeley, engineering manager for Bridger Aerospace's Ascent Vision Technologies, said the CEO of the company, Tim Sheehy, decided early on that they should do something to help health care workers and first responders during the pandemic.
They developed the design of a simple face shield and created a production line to make the barriers for those whose job doesn’t allow them to stay six feet away from those in need.
They’ve made 800 so far and plan to ramp up production next week. All of the face shields are being donated.
“We want to do everything we can to help out,” Keeley said. “People have been really grateful to get these.”
Before dropping into Stevensville, the crew from Bridger Aerospace touched down in Hamilton to make a delivery to the assisted living center, Sapphire Lutheran Homes.
That facility’s director, Cole Hardin, said personal protection equipment, like face shields, has been hard to find.
“We’ve been struggling like every other assisted living long term care community,” Hardin said. “You just can’t find them. We were looking at developing strategies in house if and when we needed to go into that procedural point, and so this dramatically helps us.”
Hardin said the center’s health director heard about the program and reached out to Bridger Aerospace.
“I was pleasantly surprised that we were the recipients of such a wonderful gift,” Hardin said. “It was very unexpected. We so appreciate that Montanans are helping Montanans.”
The company also delivered face shields in Missoula, Libby and Polson.