Montana Outdoors

November 1, 2007

Not exactly what I wanted to see

Filed under: Forest fires, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Photos, Pictures, Wildland fires — montucky @ 10:40 pm

For the first two hours of today’s hunt, I thoroughly enjoyed walking in the footprints of deer and elk and moose. The temperature was in the 40’s but the wind was strong and cold. For about three miles, I stayed below the ridge tops and hunted the semi-open hillsides where the game would be bedded down out of the wind, resting up for their night time feeding forays.

After making about half of a large circle, it was finally time to cross over the high country and complete the circle back to where the Jeep was parked. On the route I chose, three ridges converged at a peak, and upon reaching it, this is what was there; not exactly what I wanted to see!

Burning slash pile

While it looks like flat, open country in the photo, it is actually just a level area atop a high ridge: the terrain falls off sharply in all directions. This is state land and it was selectively logged during the summer. Apparently a slash pile (tree limbs, branches, smaller trees and brush) had been burned earlier, but it didn’t burn completely and some coals still smoldered deep within the pile. By the time I arrived, the wind had reached about 30 – 35 miles per hour, blowing from right to left in the photo and fanned the coals into a very hot fire. Beyond the clearing and down off the sides of the ridge there were multiple canyons filled with thickets and some old-growth timber; not the place where you would want a fire with that kind of wind! It made an abrupt end to the hunt!

Slash pile fire

After a hard hour’s hike cross-country to the Jeep and a half hour’s drive into the local DNRC to report and locate the fire on their maps, I returned home feeling pleased that I had chosen that particular area to hunt today and had discovered early what could have developed into a very serious problem.


  1. Sorry your hunt was interrupted, but glad it was you who happened upon this scene and not someone who would have shrugged it off as somebody else’s problem.

    Thanks, from all of us.


    Comment by Pinhole — November 2, 2007 @ 5:48 am

  2. Good catch, montucky. Like Pinhole said, it’s a good thing it was you that caught it. Did the DNRC say if and when they’d make it to the fire?


    Comment by wolf — November 2, 2007 @ 7:59 am

  3. Pinhole,

    It was lucky to be there when I was, but I think any hunter from around here would have done the same thing.


    Comment by montucky — November 2, 2007 @ 9:01 am

  4. wolf,

    The DNRC had crews not too far from there and radio contact, so they should have gotten there quickly to check it out. They got right on the radio. Despite the time of year, it’s still dry enough to get a wildfire going. On the 14th we had to respond to one just out of town that was starting to climb a hill pretty fast.


    Comment by montucky — November 2, 2007 @ 9:05 am

  5. Are there any fire towers in the area? If so, was the blaze not producing enough smoke for them to see?

    It wouldn’t take long for the fire you discovered to get completely out of hand. I hate to see a hunt spoilt, but your timely appearance on the scene probably saved a lot of habitat.



    Comment by knightofswords — November 2, 2007 @ 9:45 am

  6. The towers aren’t manned this time of year, and even so, the wind was so strong that it diffused all the smoke and kept it below the tree tops. I didn’t even see it until I topped the ridge and was within a hundred yards or so.

    These slash piles in a relatively clear area like this are safe to burn without a strong wind, but a high wind on the ridge top changes all that and the fire can move through the chips and debris on the ground into the grass and then it’s serious. Yes I’m glad I happened by there!


    Comment by montucky — November 2, 2007 @ 10:12 am

  7. wow that is so cool – there are quite a few fires burning on the backside of the mt. our local ranger website reminds us that so far there has not been enough rain to consider the forest nonburnable so be careful with just about everything you do. Course… the fires told me that. 🙂 I’m glad you showed up. We still haven’t had enough rain and moisture to consider these areas safe yet. (And it looks like you haven’t either)


    Comment by aullori — November 2, 2007 @ 11:52 am

  8. On tonight’s news, it was reported that there is a very active fire of about 20 acres burning right now about a hundred miles from here that started exactly like this one. It’s definitely still burnable out there!


    Comment by montucky — November 2, 2007 @ 5:59 pm

  9. I only echo the sentiment that you happened upon this could-have-been-a-disaster. hope everything got under control quickly


    Comment by silken — November 2, 2007 @ 8:15 pm

  10. I checked the spot today and it had been taken care of properly. One of those lucky things that I happened by when I did!


    Comment by montucky — November 2, 2007 @ 10:01 pm

  11. good to hear

    was it “lucky”? perhaps you were “led”…?


    Comment by silken — November 3, 2007 @ 9:59 pm

  12. Perhaps. silken, but I really don’t know. It worked out well, however!


    Comment by montucky — November 3, 2007 @ 10:41 pm

  13. With all the fires you had this year this could have been a disaster, good timing on your hunt Terry:)


    Comment by Bernie Kasper — November 4, 2007 @ 6:47 pm

  14. I guess timing is everything, whether or not you intended it that way. Usually this time of year there’s snow on the ground to keep a thing like that from spreading, but not this year.


    Comment by montucky — November 4, 2007 @ 7:19 pm

  15. I’m glad to hear the crews got by and got the fire out before it could turn into any thing more worrisome.



    Comment by knightofswords — November 7, 2007 @ 9:36 pm

  16. The guys around here are very responsive because we all know the importance of an immediate attack on a fire while it’s still small. We have plenty of practice!


    Comment by montucky — November 7, 2007 @ 11:09 pm

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