Montana Outdoors

August 5, 2007

Chippy Creek fire: more photos

Today I’m glad that I had the chance to get some shots of the Chippy Creek fire yesterday. The breeze has shifted slightly bringing smoke into this area today and the visibility here is about one mile, making photos impossible. I’ll now post a few more shots taken yesterday to provide a little more perspective on this huge fire.

The first photo was taken just outside the little town of Plains Montana. The elevation there along the Clark’s Fork of the Columbia River is about 2,500 feet. The mountain is Mount Baldy, 7,464 feet high and roughly 10 miles away and as can be seen, the smoke from the fire dwarfs it.

Chippy Creek fire smoke plume

The photos in my last post were taken from USFS trail 340 near the top of Mount Baldy from where I could look directly across at the smoke columns from the same altitude and I was actually able to see flames cross the high ridge at about 10 miles distance.

In Henry IV, Part One Falstaff commented that “The better part of valor is discretion…” I firmly believe that. I typically dip into my fairly abundant supply of discretion before using up any of my quite limited supply of valor, and yesterday was no different. Before hiking a mile or two up the steep trail, I was able to drive to where the forest road crosses the ridge a few miles to the left of the peak at a place called Corona Divide. I did that to make sure of the fire’s location before committing to the trail. The next four photos were taken from the divide. The elevation is quite a bit lower so the views are looking up, not across, at the fire. In a way, they seem a little more menacing because the perspective of distance is not as evident.

Chippy Creek fire

Chippy Creek fire

Chippy Creek fire

Chippy Creek fire

The next and last photo is one taken from high on Mount Baldy and I am posting it to give a feel for the extent of the fire as a whole. The high ridge at the base of the smoke columns has a special meaning for me: there is a trail USFS trail 291) that follows it completely across the high country and on my list of things to do this summer was hiking the length of it. Probably not now, although I may try to get up in there to photograph some of the results of the burn.

The peak at the far left, where the smoke columns start is Cook Mountain, at 6,725 feet elevation. The sharp little peak to the right of it and three miles away is Little Thompson Peak at 7,025 feet. Another mile to its right is 7,460 foot Thompson’s Peak and the fire extends far past it on down the ridge line.

At the time these photos were taken, the fire was about 37,000 acres or 58 square miles, extending 6 miles to the right of Thompson Peak and 6 miles straight past the high ridge. I would estimate the height of the smoke columns to be somewhere around 15,000 feet. Keep in mind that all the green covering the country between my lens and the ridge consists of with pine and fir trees and, while they look like a coating of grass, actually average 80 to 100 feet tall. The whole thing is an awesome but not uncommon event in nature’s process.

Chippy Creek fire

If you really want to get a feel for size and distance, click on any of the photos and it will take you to my Flickr site where you can view a large or original size version of the photo. It still isn’t quite the same though as sitting up there on that cliff and looking directly across at it.

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