Montana Outdoors

August 3, 2007

No, those aren’t clouds

Forest fire smoke column

Forest fire smoke column

These photos were taken from 20 miles away. Imagine what it is like up close! They are 15,000 foot high columns of smoke from the Chippy Creek fire here in western Montana. (This site has some good photos of the fire. I did not approach the area myself because the responding equipment needs all the road space available.)

As of the latest update, it is 3 days old and over 7,000 acres (about 11 square miles). It seems to be burning in an easterly direction which is taking it through the McGregor – Thompson roadless area, right over the slopes of 6,992 foot Snowstorm Mountain. I know that country well.


  1. Viewing such scenes always makes me feel helpless, emotionally stirred and somewhat euphoric, simultaneously. I wish I could describe it as well as your photographs.


    Comment by Pinhole — August 3, 2007 @ 1:15 pm

  2. I think I’ve mentioned before that I spent one summer fighting forest fires. “Helpless” takes on a brand new meaning when you’re setting out to attack a big fire with nothing more in your hands than a shovel and a Pulaski. Another feeling that is often present is “insignificant”.


    Comment by montucky — August 3, 2007 @ 2:11 pm

  3. I too have seen a forest fire up close, and it’s nothing to laugh at. It was a very frightening experience. Looks like you guys could use some rain.
    By the way, I tagged you, if you’d like to play along…


    Comment by wolf — August 3, 2007 @ 3:34 pm

  4. We sure could use rain. We had 1/4 inch since the middle of June and have been setting all-time high temp records almost daily. At the moment we have the dubious distinction of having the top 4 fires in the nation. It’s nasty this year.

    I’ll check out that tag…


    Comment by montucky — August 3, 2007 @ 5:56 pm

  5. This has a surreal look look Terry, like an invader come to wreak havoc, which I guess it is. Hopefully they will get it under control.


    Comment by Bernie Kasper — August 3, 2007 @ 6:41 pm

  6. Fire has been a part of nature’s forest management process for millions of years, but it’s still not easy to look at. In the wilderness areas now, naturally caused fires are allowed to burn and I think that is the right thing to do. There are some trees, for example the Lodgepole Pine that actually depend on fire to regenerate. This fire however, I believe is human caused and that raises another question for me.


    Comment by montucky — August 3, 2007 @ 7:04 pm

  7. We just put out one over in this area (also human caused) Our house was safe because it was directly across the lake. I didn’t take any photos of the one over here. Hopefully no one is in its way. (btw; have you ever seen a bird try to fly in smoke? I imagine you have – what a terrible sight that is. That made me feel insignificant and helpless.)


    Comment by aullori — August 4, 2007 @ 10:08 pm

  8. I’m about to post some of the 60 pictures I took today of the Chippy Creek fire. I saw on the news tonight a photo from space that show the smoke from it very clearly. Insignificant and helpless, exactly!


    Comment by montucky — August 4, 2007 @ 11:04 pm

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