Montana Outdoors

August 2, 2016

Copper King fire, western Montana

On Sunday, July 31 a wild fire started up at the west end of KooKooSint Ridge about 8 miles east of the small western Montana town of Thompson Falls at about 3:00 PM. In the first few hours it grew to 200 acres.

Meanwhile, a close friend was working with a contingent of volunteers on the restoration of the lookout cabin on Big Hole Peak which is located about three miles from the fire and directly down wind from it. At about 5:00 the restoration crew was evacuated from the lookout so my friend (who had hiked up to work in the morning) had the pleasure of another three mile hike back down to the staging area and return to the valley leaving most of his equipment behind.

On Monday morning the Forest Service sent a crew by helicopter up to the Big Hole Lookout to retrieve all of the equipment and wrap the cabin with fire resistant material. By then the fire had grown to 700 acres.ย  While we had nothing much else to do we decided to see if we could go get a good look at the fire, and made the drive up to the Eddy Peak lookout which is on the other side of the Clark Fork Valley about two miles due south of the fire. That lookout is manned and has a road up to about half a mile from the lookout itself. We arrived at the tower just in time to see an air tanker drop its entire load of retardant on the fire. I had barely enough time to change my camera to a telephoto lens before the retardant run began. It was a great opportunity for a few photos and a rare opportunity to photograph a big air tanker run from above. (The fire was at an elevation of about 5500 feet and the Eddy Peak lookout sits at about 7000 feet.) The photos of the tanker run were taken from the lookout tower.

The air tanker is a four engine jet I believe to be owned by Neptune Aviation in Missoula Montana and itโ€™s a BAe 146 (#02) aircraft which carries a load of 3000 gallons of retardant (about twelve tons).

Photos from the base of the Eddy Peak lookout overlooking the Clark Fork Valley:

Clark Fork Valley from Eddy Peak

Clark Fork Valley from Eddy Peak

Clark Fork Valley from Eddy Peak

Clark Fork Valley from Eddy Peak

Copper King fire

Sequence of photos of the air tanker retardant run:

Copper King fire

Copper King fire

Copper King fire

Copper King fire

"Copper

Copper King fire

Copper King fire

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39 Comments »

  1. Great series of pictures. I hope they contained the fire.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Malcolm R. Campbell — August 2, 2016 @ 8:43 pm

    • Containment will probably be a long time coming. There were high winds at the ridge level today with humidity in the teens. There are now 220 people on the fire and more coming.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 2, 2016 @ 8:57 pm

      • Glacier had a bad one last season that I think smoldered until the first snow fall…after burning a fair number of acres in St. Mary Valley.

        Like

        Comment by Malcolm R. Campbell — August 2, 2016 @ 10:31 pm

  2. It is amazing to me how quickly a wildfire can spread and how difficult to fight in that terrain. thanks for the Great photos of the area.
    I pray no one gets hurt trying to control that fire.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by John Purdy — August 2, 2016 @ 8:50 pm

    • That fire just seemed to blow up. I’m also concerned for those folks who are battling it. It would have been especially hard today.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 2, 2016 @ 8:58 pm

  3. Those are amazing pictures. I hate to think of the wildlife that is endangered by wildfires (and firefighters too, of course, but that aside, it was lucky that you were able to get into a position to take those photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by wordsfromanneli — August 2, 2016 @ 9:01 pm

    • When I left the house I thought that from the lookout we would see a huge smoke plume and hopefully some air activity, but the fire, rather than beong at the crest of the ridge, had gone north and a little west along the slope down to Thompson River. The air tanker drop was a pleasant surprise!

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — August 2, 2016 @ 9:15 pm

  4. It is unfortunate; it is all HIS will.
    Photos are excellent.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by nvsubbaraman — August 2, 2016 @ 9:49 pm

    • Thank you! Wildfire is a part of the natural world in which we live. The cause of this one has not yet been determined.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 2, 2016 @ 10:08 pm

  5. Great shots. I also hope they contain the fire, but with all that fuel in the trees, it may take some time.

    Keep safe.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Vicki — August 3, 2016 @ 1:21 am

    • Thanks Vicki. This morning the fire is at 1286 acres with 0% containment. 373 people working on it.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — August 4, 2016 @ 10:42 am

  6. Oh Terry, I got a bit of a fright at first upon returning to your blog for the first time in a while. The word “fire” in the title got me! We’ve had some fairly bad bushfires in parts of Australia. Every year there is danger for some areas. Every time I see your mountains and forests I fall a bit in love with Montana again. While I love my own country, the mountains there are so spectacular. I do hope the fire doesn’t cause a huge amount of damage. It looks like it would be a difficult place to control a wildfire though. Thanks for the great shots! You wouldn’t want to be caught hiking in there. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Jane — August 3, 2016 @ 4:53 am

    • That’s a very busy place now. It’s in a very difficult place and a lot of the effort so far has been from the air. They do have some crews with heavy equipment working to seal off its northward movement. All public access (and there was very little access anyway) has been shut off.The fire will be burning for a long time.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 4, 2016 @ 10:45 am

  7. It is amazing to me how quickly a wildfire can spread and how difficult to fight in that terrain. thanks for the Great photos of the area.
    I pray no one gets hurt trying to control that fire.
    http://www.famoustrip.com/major-facilities-dev-vilas-ranthambore/

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Dev Vilas Ranthambore — August 3, 2016 @ 4:57 am

    • I’m also concerned for the people working the fire. It is a hot, dirty and dangerous job!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 4, 2016 @ 10:45 am

  8. Wow, what amazing photos! Prayers for all involved.๐Ÿ˜Ž

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by heartandsoul974 — August 3, 2016 @ 5:08 am

    • My timing was luckily very good to get the photos. There are a lot of people there now doing a dangerous job!

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — August 4, 2016 @ 10:46 am

  9. Great vies from Eddy Peak and especially to be looking down on the tanker drop. I think I recognized Baldy Mtn. in the background of one of those pictures. Keep us posted on the fate of the Big Hole lookout. That fire down in the Bitteroot is sure a mean one.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Ron Mangels — August 3, 2016 @ 5:29 am

    • The fire is moving in the direction of Big Hole, but They should be able to protect the lookout cabin. I can’t get close enough to see it because all public access has been sealed off.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 4, 2016 @ 10:49 am

  10. nice photos.
    that is such a large amount of retardant. I had no idea as to how much a plan can hold.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Tammie — August 3, 2016 @ 8:00 am

    • Those are large planes and seem to be very efficient. One good thing is that it has very good approaches from the air.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 4, 2016 @ 10:50 am

  11. Great series of shots!! Every time we fly into the Missoula airport, we see the planes all lined up. Amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by zannyro — August 3, 2016 @ 8:29 am

    • You may have seen this one at the Missoula airport when you flew in. Neptune does an amazing job!

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — August 4, 2016 @ 10:51 am

  12. That’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m glad you had your camera with you. The photos are excellent!
    Whatever those people make, it isn’t enough. That must be a very high stress job.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by New Hampshire Garden Solutions — August 3, 2016 @ 3:11 pm

    • Going up to Eddy Peak was a very good decision for us, and the timing was perfect. The people are well trained and well equipped. They have very high safety standards, but…!

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — August 4, 2016 @ 10:53 am

  13. While I hate wildfires even though they are part of the natural world and can be beneficial, what an opportunity to be able to photograph this from the Lookout. Did you know the person(s) manning the Lookout? I, too, hope all the fire fighters will be safe and that the animals were able to outrun or outfly the fire.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Candace — August 3, 2016 @ 6:51 pm

    • That was the first time I had met the guy manning the Eddy Peak lookout, but he has had many years of experience in the forest in many different disciplines. We greatly enjoyed talking with him!

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — August 4, 2016 @ 10:54 am

  14. Spectacular photos! It looks such a huge area, and the aircraft look so small in comparison – the scale of the job must be so daunting, in those mountains. I hope that the run was successful but from your comments it seems as if the fire is still burning. What is the purpose of the smaller jet flying ahead – is that to lead the tanker in? I hope that you and your home are safe.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Jo Woolf — August 4, 2016 @ 12:17 am

    • The smaller plane is a spotter who flies several passes before the big planes come in, then serves as a guide for their drops. Highly skilled pilots, all of them! I’m safe here, about 15 miles way and the prevailing winds are taking it a direction away from here.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 4, 2016 @ 10:56 am

  15. Those are some fascinating photos. I was just reading about Koo-koo-sint aka David Thompson. Nice to see both of his monikers in the same post.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by jomegat — August 4, 2016 @ 6:39 am

    • David Thompson was an important explorer of this region. The city of Thompson Falls was named after him as was the Thompson River and the ridge bears his Indian name.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 4, 2016 @ 10:58 am

  16. Those are fantastic photos. The skill and endurance of firefighters never fails to impress me, and the wildfire fighters are perhaps some of the most amazing. I’m sure you must know the Wildfire Today site. Here’s their current page for the Copper King and Roaring Lion fires. I like being able to keep up with events in your neighborhood — and the site has a lot of good information about equipment, procedures, and so on.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by shoreacres — August 4, 2016 @ 8:16 pm

    • I keep pretty close track of the fires near here and InciWeb has been doing a very good job this year of updating the information, usually several times a day. I spent one summer fighting fires in the Clearwater forest of Idaho working for the Forest Service and I remember what it was like. It’s much better today, with better equipment (especially communications) and much better air support, but it’s still a hard, dirty and dangerous job. I also responded to a lot of brush and a few timber fires (along with structure fires) during the 4 years I worked with Rural Fire, but that was driving an engine and the last two years driving a water tender with 3000 gallons of water. It was a new machine and I enjoyed that a lot!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 5, 2016 @ 9:48 pm

  17. Wow, you got some great shots. I’m hoping all battling that fire are safe. So thankful for the firefighters who bravely battle against a dangerous foe. I remember praying for those fighting the wildfires so many times when we lived in Oregon.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Mama's Empty Nest — August 9, 2016 @ 9:07 am

    • The four hundred who are working on this fire are doing a good job and so far not a single accident!

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — August 10, 2016 @ 6:46 pm

  18. Amazing photos! I have never seen a wildfire. Is it over now?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Sartenada — August 15, 2016 @ 4:20 am

    • The fire is now contained, but most of the are is in such difficult terrain that it will have to burn itself out or be finally put out by the first snows. They have predicted that the completion date of the fire will be October 31.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 15, 2016 @ 10:59 am


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