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Bigfork remains quiet for crime overall despite notable incidents

by JEREMY WEBER
For the Eagle | February 3, 2021 2:15 AM

The evening chill sets in and the thick fog rises as Flathead County Sheriff’s Deputy Darrin Wise makes his rounds through the backroads near Fernade. His even patrol will unfold like most in the Bigfork area, quiet and uneventful.

“It can get relatively boring when you are working the south county area, patrolling Bigfork, Lakeside and such,” Wise said. “The outlying areas, like the backroads, can be more interesting to patrol, but you also find yourself out there by yourself a lot. I make it a point to go into areas that don’t have a lot of problems just to let people know we are around. Sometimes, people around Bigfork are surprised to see us since so little goes on over there.”

According to Wise, the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office uses shifts of seven to eight deputies to cover an area of more than 5,200 square miles (roughly the size of Rhode Island).

While the north part of Flathead County can leave deputies more isolated, Wise says the areas around Bigfork and Creston are generally pretty quiet, but activity can ramp up during the tourist season in the summertime.

“Bigfork stays quiet, for the most part. Now and then, we will get something out that way. It does seem like the area has gotten a little busier in my short time here, but it is not really a problem area,” he said. “There are days that are uneventful and then there are days where everyone seems to have lost their minds and we get call after call.”

According to Wise, most of the calls he deals with in the Bigfork area involve suspicious vehicles and a few disturbances, physical, verbal and domestic, but those are fairly uncommon in the area.

There were a few notable incidents involving law enforcement in the Bigfork area in 2020 as one man was accused of getting into an argument with another man and shot him in the leg in September. The same man was also arrested in December and charged with one felony count of assault with a weapon after he allegedly fired several rounds from a shotgun into a vehicle belonging to a woman who said she was a witness to the earlier shooting.

Shots were fired in another incident in April after a woman stole a truck from the parking lot of Glacier International Airport and led authorities on a high speed chase before opening fire on Sheriff’s Deputies near the school in Bigfork. There were no injuries in that incident.

The largest law enforcement incident in Bigfork last year occurred June 9 when a suspect in a Kalispell homicide led law enforcement on a lengthy car chase before being shot and killed near Woods Bay.

While these incidents grabbed local headlines, Wise says it was once again a quiet year in Bigfork, for the most part. He hopes it stays that way in 2021.

“We have had quite the population boom over the last year, so we will see what the coming years have in store for us,” he said. “Hopefully, things will continue to stay relatively quiet.”