Montana Outdoors

September 2, 2012

It will probably be called the “Combest Creek” fire.

Filed under: Wildland fires — Tags: , , — montucky @ 9:31 pm

This afternoon a wildfire started up just to the south of the town of Plains Montana in the area of Combest Creek. It has been aided by some pretty good winds.

Just before dark there were several helicopters working the fire with water drops and two fixed wing aircraft, the yellow one dropping water and the silver and red one dropping fire retardant slurry.

Combest (?) fire

The Combest Creek (?) fire

Water plane

This plane was making water drops: see next photo.

Water drop

Slurry plane

This is a small slurry bomber and the following series shows one slurry run just before it became too dark to fly. (And take pictures)

Slurry drop

Slurry drop

Slurry drop

Slurry drop

Note: Here is some information on the yellow plane, a Model 415 SuperScooper.

Update: InciWeb has just started tracking this fire and have named it the “Blacktail Ridge” fire. It is now 250 acres.

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76 Comments »

  1. Hope they can get it under control quickly.

    Like

    Comment by wordsfromanneli — September 2, 2012 @ 11:11 pm

    • I hope so too. We are having a cool evening and the wind has gone stopped so the fire is lying down for the night. I hope to see more planes in the air soon after sunrise. The yellow plane can scoop water out of the river (or there is a small lake within a few air miles) so that should be a help.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 2, 2012 @ 11:23 pm

      • They have a dangerous job to do. It must be tricky getting water out of the river. Good luck to them.

        Like

        Comment by wordsfromanneli — September 3, 2012 @ 12:08 pm

        • I don’t know if there is a long enough stretch of river for them to use, but the lake would be just right.

          Like

          Comment by montucky — September 3, 2012 @ 2:46 pm

  2. GREAT pictures. We live up here and were so grateful for all the air support fighting this fire. These pictures really showcase these amazing folks at work! Montana truly has the greatest firefighters anywhere on earth!

    Like

    Comment by Montana.Bischofs — September 3, 2012 @ 12:42 am

    • I was amazed at the quick response of the aircraft! That’s commendable! It’s the first time I’ve seen the “SuperScooper” on a fire. I think that’s the Bombardier 415 Superscooper made in Canada and it carries about 1600 gallons. I agree, Montana has some of the very best firefighters anywhere!

      I hope you and your property will be safe from the fire!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 3, 2012 @ 9:29 am

  3. 😦 oh dear.

    Like

    Comment by Homestead Ramblings — September 3, 2012 @ 6:32 am

    • We have been lucky so far locally. They really got on this one quickly, which is great!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 3, 2012 @ 9:30 am

  4. Oh no… But you sure had a perfect vantage point! It (hopefully, hopefully) seems as though they may have it under control, in combination with the weather conditions….

    Like

    Comment by FeyGirl — September 3, 2012 @ 7:05 am

    • The photos were taken from a half mile from my house and roughly 5 miles from the fire. I thought it would be interesting to see the planes in action.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 3, 2012 @ 9:32 am

  5. We have not had measurable rain for about 6 weeks or more … it is tinder dry. Vegetation is shriveling up and dying .. not the colorful Fall everyone was hoping for. There has not been a fire near me before, but they say conditions are explosive. (the people stupidly shooting off fireworks last night at the campground down the road made me cringe) Hoping we all get some rain soon to prevent fire destruction of our wilderness areas. Great pictures.

    Like

    Comment by bearyweather — September 3, 2012 @ 8:00 am

    • Those are about the same conditions that we’ve had here but maybe a little longer since a good rain. We’ve also had quite a bit of wind. No rain in the forseeable forecast either. Our only salvation at the moment is cool nights.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 3, 2012 @ 9:34 am

  6. Great report. You got some excellent photos documenting the process.
    We, too, in New Mexico have such dryness. The plants, doing their best, have produced many flowers and fruit this year because of the timing of the scant precipitation. But they are struggling. Early dropping of leaves observed – I guess that means storing what reserves are left in the roots. I liked hearing that Denver allows watering of trees in their strict and good water conservation rules.

    Like

    Comment by C.C. — September 3, 2012 @ 8:16 am

    • I know you have had some really bad fires. A lot of acres have burned in Montana this summer, mostly on the east side of the Divide. We’re now getting some fires in the western part. The Coeur d’Alene Mountains west of where I live are still nice and green but the Cabinets are very dry already. THere will be problems right up to the first snow.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 3, 2012 @ 9:38 am

  7. This is excitement I can do without. But stunning photos nonetheless.

    Like

    Comment by Kim — September 3, 2012 @ 8:25 am

    • I agree, this is excitement we can do without! We still have another month at least where we will be at risk.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 3, 2012 @ 9:39 am

  8. Very interesting, not something most of us ever see. But I certainly hope they get it contained very soon.

    Like

    Comment by Candace — September 3, 2012 @ 10:20 am

    • Not a good sight, but certainly interesting. I hope now that the wind stays calm.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 3, 2012 @ 2:31 pm

  9. Sure hope it’s under control and hasn’t spread!

    Like

    Comment by allbymyself09 — September 3, 2012 @ 11:08 am

    • It stayed down over night but has flared up a bit this afternoon and crossed a ridge on its west side.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 3, 2012 @ 2:32 pm

  10. I hope they get a handle on it soon. It must be painful to see.

    Like

    Comment by New Hampshire Gardener — September 3, 2012 @ 11:41 am

    • It’s not good to see, especially with the dry windy conditions that we have now. There have been so many fires in Montana this year!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 3, 2012 @ 2:36 pm

  11. Hi Montucky, Having come from Southern California, I am familiar with brush and forest fires. That “Super scooper” as well as the DC10’s that get modified for fire-fighting, really do wonders. So sorry that this fire is around and I hope it gets put under control very soon. Have an excellent day!

    Like

    Comment by wildlifewatcher — September 3, 2012 @ 12:05 pm

    • Yes, I hope they get it under control soon too! One of the problems this year is that there are so many fires going at once flying time on each fire is scarce.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 3, 2012 @ 2:38 pm

  12. I couldn’t find “Combest Creek” on InciWeb – perhaps it’s been given another name? We had two of those Super Scoopers in use in the Bastrop,Texas fires last year. It was amazing to watch them work. Here’s a great video of the planes picking up water. From the response of the folks with the video camera, I’m not sure they were expecting to see such a thing – I’m so glad they posted it.

    Like

    Comment by shoreacres — September 3, 2012 @ 12:08 pm

    • That’s a great video! I haven’t seen these planes “scooping” yet but have watched the choppers fill their buckets many times. InciWeb hasn’t picked this fire up yet, nor have any of the news outlets. They may call it something else when they do pick it up; my guess is just based on location.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 3, 2012 @ 2:45 pm

  13. Terry:

    Any idea what caused the fire? Lightening?

    Chad

    Like

    Comment by Kinzel, Charles H. — September 3, 2012 @ 2:12 pm

    • No idea, Chad. We haven’t had lightning for a long time though and that particular location doesn’t look right for a lightning strike. From here I can’t even tell where it started and I don’t want to interfere with fire traffic to get much closer. Looks like it came from fairly low on the east slope. At the moment there are only choppers on it and it has crossed a ridge line to its west. Not a good thing! The photos were taken from the top of the hill on the road in front of our house.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 3, 2012 @ 2:50 pm

  14. When you see how little they can drop in comparison with the size of the fire, it’s amazing that any of these fires are ever brought under control. My son used to fight fires in California. I know the dreadful work it can be. But I also know the dedication these wonderful people display.

    Like

    Comment by snowbirdpress — September 3, 2012 @ 3:22 pm

    • The scope of a large fire is almost unbelievable, and so is the work spent controlling one. I wish everyone could spend at least a day on a fire line.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 3, 2012 @ 8:51 pm

      • Hi, Montucky, I know what you mean… my son told me many stories… but it’s not for everyone because some of these dedicated folks work till they drop…. the work is that intense. You have to be in good physical condition. Be safe. So sorry the fires have hit your area too.

        Like

        Comment by snowbirdpress — September 4, 2012 @ 11:55 am

  15. i have some awesome pics and video of a superscooper in action on the neuse river (your old stomping ground) last year. we were amazed at his skill with the wind and choppy river. he would fly right over our heads and wave while he was in his holding pattern…it was great! oh, and he put the fire out too =o)

    Like

    Comment by Sandy — September 3, 2012 @ 7:17 pm

    • Those pilots are a special breed. Same with the chopper pilots. This is the first SuperScooper that I’ve seen although I’ve read about them. I’d like to watch more, especially picking up water. 1600 gallons is a pretty good load! As I remember the Neuse, it would have been a perfect place to use one of those.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 3, 2012 @ 8:55 pm

      • he made more than a dozen passes so we had our fill…it was taxing holding our breath each pass. the number on “our” plane was 266 and “yours” is 262…maybe they are related =o)

        Like

        Comment by Sandy — September 4, 2012 @ 9:53 pm

  16. Thanks for bringing the action to us. Nice job photographing the planes.

    Like

    Comment by jomegat — September 3, 2012 @ 8:06 pm

    • Thanks. I would have liked to be a bit closer but it was still pretty interesting to see. By the looks of it there will be many more days before it’s over and more aircraft in service. Today they were flying some little single engine crop-duster types. It’s surprising how effective those little guys are!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 3, 2012 @ 8:57 pm

      • I’m glad to hear that they are more effective than they look like they would be. I have always imagined them as teardrops in the ocean. Five miles seems too close!

        Like

        Comment by jomegat — September 3, 2012 @ 9:05 pm

        • I watched the little planes dropping retardant on a big fire in 2007 and was impressed. These are the Air Tractor AT-802 SEAT (Single Engine Air Tanker) with an 820 gal. capacity and they are able to be very accurate in their drops. I have done some firefighting with wildland fire trucks which have only 300 gallons and their effectiveness is incredible, so the 820 gallons from the air is better than it looks.

          Like

          Comment by montucky — September 3, 2012 @ 11:06 pm

  17. Hoping this fire is soon under control. You did very well with the photos!

    Like

    Comment by Jo Woolf — September 4, 2012 @ 12:11 am

  18. Incredible images! I’ve never seen a mountain forest fire up this close. Hope it is soon under control…

    Like

    Comment by Marcie — September 4, 2012 @ 5:59 am

    • They are awesome to see. This one should be controllable.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 4, 2012 @ 9:10 am

  19. Hope it doesn’t take them long to knock down that fire.

    Like

    Comment by knightofswords — September 4, 2012 @ 12:01 pm

    • They really did quite well on it and it is controlled now.

      Like

      Comment by Montucky — September 10, 2012 @ 10:14 pm

  20. Nice work getting the planes and their crews in action. As you have shown us in the past, fire is one of Nature’s ways of renewing the land. Of course, why the weather has been so screwed up the last decade is a while other story.

    Like

    Comment by Scott Thomas Photography — September 4, 2012 @ 1:20 pm

    • This has been an especially bad year and it is still far from over.

      Like

      Comment by Montucky — September 10, 2012 @ 10:17 pm

  21. You certainly caught the action.

    Like

    Comment by Anonymous — September 4, 2012 @ 2:07 pm

    • Well, some of it. The retardant planes worked only that afternoon then turned it over to the ground crews and helicopters.

      Like

      Comment by Montucky — September 10, 2012 @ 10:18 pm

  22. That is pretty impressive! And I am sure it is a dangerous job. I hope everyone is your area is safe.

    Like

    Comment by kateri — September 4, 2012 @ 8:14 pm

    • Thanks kateri. There were no injuries of loss of homes in this fire.

      Like

      Comment by Montucky — September 10, 2012 @ 10:18 pm

  23. Great photos! I’ve heard there are quite a few fires….daughter-in-law was trying to take a bike ride in Missoula and she said you could cut the smoke with a knife…

    Like

    Comment by zannyro — September 4, 2012 @ 10:12 pm

    • Yes, there have been lots and many more have started recently. The smoke in western Montana now covers hundreds of miles, although the have been several windy days that have cleared it our briefly and we’ve had a few breaks.

      Like

      Comment by Montucky — September 10, 2012 @ 10:20 pm

  24. I’m sorry to hear about these conflagrations. The newspaper and the television stations in Austin have been running stories this week about the one-year anniversary of the devastating Labor Day fires that central Texas suffered last year. The area shown in your photographs seems more rural, so let’s hope fewer buildings will be destroyed (I think it was over 1600 in central Texas).

    Like

    Comment by Steve Schwartzman — September 5, 2012 @ 7:45 pm

    • We have lost homes in eastern Montana but few in the western part so far. Quite a few families have been told to evacuate today about a hundred miles south of here. It is not over.

      Like

      Comment by Montucky — September 10, 2012 @ 10:21 pm

  25. Wow! Some really great photos! I hope conditions have improved by now..

    Like

    Comment by Roberta — September 5, 2012 @ 9:23 pm

    • This fire has been controlled but in southwest Montana there were 23 new ones in the past few days and one is threatening some homes.

      Like

      Comment by Montucky — September 10, 2012 @ 10:22 pm

  26. great photos
    but oh dear

    Like

    Comment by Tammie — September 6, 2012 @ 5:02 am

    • Yes, interesting but threatening. We were lucky on this one.

      Like

      Comment by Montucky — September 10, 2012 @ 10:23 pm

  27. Wow. This is such a photo report which stops a man. Your photos are superb! I hope that the situation is now in control.

    Like

    Comment by Sartenada — September 6, 2012 @ 10:43 pm

    • Yes, this one is now controlled with just some smoke remaining.

      Like

      Comment by Montucky — September 10, 2012 @ 10:24 pm

  28. Photography can be such an effective way of displaying a sequence of events and you have done that so well here. In a few photos you have reported an event that several written paragraphs could not have adequately revealed. Thank you for bringing to all of us the gravity of this natural disaster.

    Like

    Comment by Wild_Bill — September 7, 2012 @ 5:49 am

    • Yes, it’s one thing to describe it and still another to see it. I’ve been very interested in the technology that we have now. It really helps!

      Like

      Comment by Montucky — September 10, 2012 @ 10:26 pm

  29. Oh my, too about about the fire. I sure hope it is under control by now. Awesome captures of the wildfire and the photos of the planes.

    Like

    Comment by Anna Surface — September 7, 2012 @ 6:31 am

    • Yes, this one has been controlled and many of the crews have moved on to others.

      Like

      Comment by Montucky — September 10, 2012 @ 10:27 pm

  30. Great photos and I hope this is not close to any homes. Unfortunately, this seems to have been the year of the forest fire.

    Like

    Comment by kcjewel — September 8, 2012 @ 6:15 am

    • There were no homes damaged in this one. Many are now in jeopardy south of here though unfortunately.

      Like

      Comment by Montucky — September 10, 2012 @ 10:28 pm

  31. I hope your fires are out by now. A cool front came this morning.

    Like

    Comment by Jack Matthews — September 8, 2012 @ 9:16 am

    • We are having cooler weather now which helps a lot, but there are still a lot of acres on fire and lots of new starts. Our nights are now in the 30’s but the days are very windy with temps into the 80’s. The wind is especially bad.

      Like

      Comment by Montucky — September 10, 2012 @ 10:30 pm

  32. Oh no…..I watch and read about these and they are very scary, and very sad. Glad to hear it’s under control, will pray the winds cease.

    Like

    Comment by bayphotosbydonna — September 11, 2012 @ 6:38 am

    • They are very sad. Even where the homes have survived, the surroundings will not be as beautiful again during these people’s lives.

      Like

      Comment by Montucky — September 11, 2012 @ 8:18 pm

  33. fires are such a powerful force
    amazing work by these pilots and this form of putting out fires
    excellent photos, they truly tell a story

    Like

    Comment by Tammie — September 13, 2012 @ 3:18 am

  34. These are great captures, the first photo is very beautiful. When I was living in La Baie, Saguenay, I once saw a yellow airplane plunging at the surface of the bay to take up water in its tank. It was exactly the same airplane as in your photo. It was something to witness so I imagine it must have been impressing to see all the action there !
    I hope this huge fire is not too close to where you live. Take care !

    Like

    Comment by Inspired and pretty — September 13, 2012 @ 8:31 pm

    • Those planes are very valuable and where accessible water is close to a fire they are getting a lot of use. This fire was about 5 miles away but it has been brought under control.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 13, 2012 @ 10:14 pm

  35. Hello Terry, I’ve been neglecting my fellow bloggers over the summer whilst I took time out to get lots of jobs done that I’ve been neglecting over the last couple of years. But now I’m back on track and I’m going to camp out in Montanas outdoors for a while and catch up with events in your part of the world that you’ve been out photographing.

    The fire looks huge, was it close to you? The pilots of those planes must have nerves of steel to fly that close to the ground, presumably a sudden change of wind could enshroud them in smoke and leave them in zero visibility. Very dramatic images indeed!

    Like

    Comment by Finn Holding — September 18, 2012 @ 1:19 am

    • I’ve been behind in my contributions to the blog world too, also getting some jobs done, mostly a remodeling project that has taken far more time than I even dreamed it would.

      Yes, those are admirable pilots. I’ve watched them for hours on various fires and they are just amazing. The ones that I’ve talked to love doing it. I can understand the challenges and the satisfaction that would be there after doing that job!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 18, 2012 @ 8:21 pm


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