Montana Outdoors

July 2, 2009

The restoration

A few days ago, while searching for a location in which to cut next winter’s firewood supply, I chose to visit the area burned by the Chippy Creek fire in the Cabinet Mountains of western Montana. It burned for nearly all the month of August in 2007 and blackened an area of 150 square miles, 10 miles wide and 15 miles long. This photo was taken on August 4 of 2007 from a distance of about 6 miles only a few days after it began.

Chippy Creek Fire

The area I visited on Tuesday was located over the ridge and just about under the center of those tall smoke columns and was pretty thoroughly burned. As She always does, Nature immediately began the process of healing and regeneration, and in admiration I see that She has not forgotten how important the beauty of wildflowers is through the process.

One of the first wildflowers to grow in a burn, Fireweed beginning its blossom period:


Penstemons at the base of a burned Douglas Fir:


Fireweed in it’s bud stage and Penstemons with a section of the fire-killed trees in the background:


In a couple of our lifetimes or a brief moment in Nature’s eternity the forest will be completely whole again.


  1. I have read that Fireweed can be consumed in a salad. Have you ever tried that? Great photos.


    Comment by megatrekker — July 2, 2009 @ 12:31 pm

    • I have not tried eating it, but I read that the dried leaves were sometimes used to make a tea, although it had somewhat of a laxative effect. Thanks for visiting!


      Comment by montucky — July 2, 2009 @ 10:40 pm

  2. Wow…always amazing how after a fire beauty sprouts again. Lovely photos!


    Comment by Stacey — July 2, 2009 @ 12:45 pm

    • Nature, left alone, is very resilient and plants have an incredible will to live and flourish even under adverse conditions.


      Comment by montucky — July 2, 2009 @ 10:42 pm

  3. all part of the cycle,… lovely photos.


    Comment by Cedar — July 2, 2009 @ 2:32 pm

    • Yes, the normal cycle of the forest does include fire and so many plants have strategies to deal with it.


      Comment by montucky — July 2, 2009 @ 10:43 pm

  4. Fireweed: seems far more beautiful than a regular weed.


    Comment by scienceguy288 — July 2, 2009 @ 3:49 pm

    • It’s a very pretty flower by itself and quite large too. It’s one of the first plants to begin growing again in a burned area.


      Comment by montucky — July 2, 2009 @ 10:44 pm

  5. Nature takes care of herself. Love the photos of fireweed and penstemons! Some good things come out of forest fires….but I am keeping my fingers crossed that 2009 is not another big fire season!


    Comment by Maureen — July 2, 2009 @ 7:05 pm

    • I am too, Maureen. In this area the “Fire Danger” signs are displaying “HIGH” already. At about 6 tonight we responded to a wildfire that threatened a home and fortunately made it there in time to save it.

      While the area still looks green, the grasses are extremely dry. This fire was even moving rapidly down hill and into the wind, a sure sign of very dry conditions.


      Comment by montucky — July 2, 2009 @ 10:48 pm

  6. I’m filled with mixed emotions looking at these photos. The first one give me some anxiety, but looking at the later shots makes everything, well… allright. It’s easy to forget that a fire can bring beauty unseen for some time.


    Comment by kcjewel — July 2, 2009 @ 8:08 pm

    • This was a very large fire: the wall of smoke in the photo was a span of about 10 miles and the smoke plumes were over 20,000 feet tall. Most don’t get that size and are as natural as anything else that goes on in the forest. Some plants actually need fire to enable them to reproduce.


      Comment by montucky — July 2, 2009 @ 10:53 pm

  7. That’s very lovely and touching, “She has not forgotten how important the beauty of wildflowers is through the process.” It’s odd–and pretty–to see the contrast between the new flowers and the old, burned trees. It’s awe-inspiring how it regenerates but the worst thing about forest fires–in my opinion–is how many animals die a frightened,painful death. We, too, in AZ, as you know, have a lot of forest fires in the summers.


    Comment by Candace — July 2, 2009 @ 9:22 pm

    • In a more typical forest fire most of the large animals are able to avoid it. It’s perhaps toughest on the small ones who can’t travel fast enough to get out of the way, although many of the burrowers will survive deep in their burrows if the fires isn’t too intense in their area. This particular fire moved so fast and with such intensity, I’m pretty sure there was a severe toll on even the large animals, but still many escaped and are back in the area again.

      I drove about 7 miles into the burned area and while there were areas that will not regenerate for many years, most of the area is pretty well covered with new grasses and small shrubs and there are lots of islands that were skipped by the fire and are helping re-seed and restore the whole area.


      Comment by montucky — July 2, 2009 @ 11:00 pm

  8. Such intense color and beauty amid signs of the previous destruction. So glad Mother Nature can heal herself like this.


    Comment by SuzieQ — July 3, 2009 @ 4:22 pm

    • Me too! Nature has dealt with wildfire for as long as there have been forests. What she can’t deal with is their permanent destruction at the hands of men.


      Comment by montucky — July 3, 2009 @ 6:14 pm

  9. Awesome captures. I really like the third photo with the contrast of the death and birth-renewal. Beautiful wildflowers.


    Comment by Anna Surface — July 4, 2009 @ 7:20 am

    • There are a lot of contrasts in an area that has been burned by a wildfire, but the charred tree trunks and the new blossoms are perhaps the most dramatic.


      Comment by montucky — July 4, 2009 @ 1:50 pm

  10. One of the things I admire about nature is that everything just seems to work.

    Hmmm cutting your own wood, that is a big task with many ways to do it. How about a post on it.


    Comment by rvewong — July 4, 2009 @ 8:42 am

    • I will do a post later on firewood cutting. I’m still looking for a new area in which to cut this year.


      Comment by montucky — July 4, 2009 @ 1:53 pm

  11. The blue in these wildflowers is incredible , great job job capturing their beauty Terry !!


    Comment by Bernie Kasper — July 4, 2009 @ 12:20 pm

    • The Penstemons are usually found in small bunches spread throughout the forest but here they seemed to find a place that was perfect for them and really grew thick. Unusual.


      Comment by montucky — July 4, 2009 @ 1:54 pm

  12. I like all three images but the contrasts visible in that third image are just stunning. The colors, the vibrant flowers and the burned tree. Just an excellent image, Terry.


    Comment by edvatza — July 4, 2009 @ 6:56 pm

    • I could see that scene from quite a distance because of the number of blossoms in that spot and knew I had to have a photo of it. Seemed as though nature had created a small memorial there.


      Comment by montucky — July 4, 2009 @ 7:21 pm

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