Montana Outdoors

April 17, 2015

A little of the Munson Creek trail (USFS Tr 372)

Today I hiked the first couple of miles of the Munson Creek trail (from about 2,400 ft elevation to about 3,400 ft elevation) to see how the winter treated it. It was in very good condition, with a sprinkling of wildflowers all along, but only of some of the early blooming species were blooming. It is a steep and rather rough trail that is well worth hiking later in the summer when the valley is hot and the trail is cool and when there are dozens of species of wildflowers in bloom (and I will return later to see them). Here are a few photos of the trail and the flower species now in bloom along that stretch.

Munson Creek trail

Munson Creek trail

Arrowleaf Balsamroot

Arrowleaf Balsamroot ~ Balsamorhiza sagittata

Munson Creek trail

Oblongleaf Bluebells, Sagebrush Bluebells

Oblongleaf Bluebells, Sagebrush Bluebells

Oblongleaf Bluebells, Sagebrush Bluebells ~ Mertensia oblongifolia

Hooker's Fairy Bells

Hooker’s Fairy Bells ~ Disporum hookeri

Blue Clematis

Blue Clematis ~ Clematis occidentalis

Munson Creek trail

Yellow Glacier Lily

Yellow Glacier Lily, Erythronium grandiflorum

Western White Trillium

Western White Trillium ~ Trillium Ovatum

Munson Creek trail

Munson Creek trail

Munson Creek trail

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.

August 1, 2011

Wildfire

Filed under: Wildland fires — Tags: — montucky @ 7:59 pm

Wildfire

A thunderstorm swept through our area early Sunday morning and one of the lightning strikes started a small fire on a steep and rugged mountainside.

Wildfire

The fire is only 20-some acres in size but practically inaccessible except by air and is being fought by a couple of helicopters which are scooping up buckets of water from the near-by river and dumping them on the fire perimeter and hot spots to contain it. The planes being used are fairly small and they are using different size and style of buckets, each sized (by volume of water) to the size and power of the helicopter.

Wildfire helicopter

Helicopter and water bucket

Wildfire helicopter

Helicopter water bucket

(After closer inspection of the previous photo I cropped it to better show an osprey who seemed to be supervising the bucket filling activity, possibly to assure that no fish got scooped up into the buckets.)

Osprey & water bucket

The pilots are highly skilled at operating in adverse conditions and close proximity to trees, power lines and bridges, as can be seen in the following photos of the bucket-filling operation.

Helicopter water bucket

Helicopter water bucket

Helicopter water bucket

Helicopter water bucket

Helicopter water bucket3003

Helicopter water bucket

Helicopter water bucket

Helicopter water bucket

July 23, 2009

It’s that time of year again.

Filed under: Montana, Outdoors, Rural fire department, Wildland fires — montucky @ 10:52 pm
From the National Weather Service website: “A RED FLAG WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 6 AM MDT FRIDAY.
THE ATMOSPHERE HAS BECOME UNSTABLE TODAY WITH THUNDERSTORMS DEVELOPING NEAR THE IDAHO AND CANADIAN BORDERS. ADDITIONAL THUNDERSTORMS WILL DEVELOP AND MOVE EAST ACROSS NORTHWEST MONTANA OVERNIGHT. THESE THUNDERSTORMS ARE CAPABLE OF PRODUCING SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF LIGHTNING…RESULTING IN NEW LIGHTNING STARTS ACROSS PORTIONS OF NORTHWEST MONTANA. IN ADDITION…THESE STORMS DO NOT HAVE MUCH IN THE WAY OF RAINFALL ASSOCIATED WITH THEM DUE TO THE DRY LOWER ATMOSPHERE. DRIER CONDITIONS NEAR THE SURFACE IS ALSO CONDUCIVE TO GUSTY ERRATIC WINDS THAT CAN BE PRODUCED BY THESE THUNDERSTORMS.
PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…
A RED FLAG WARNING IS INTENDED TO ALERT LAND MANAGERS TO EXPECT WEATHER CONDITIONS ALONG WITH SUFFICIENTLY DRY FUELS THAT WILL SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE FIRE DANGER.”

As I recall, the last time we had a red flag warning was in July of 2007 and about two weeks later the Chippy Creek Fire started. It burned 150 square miles.

In addition, the forecast is for dry thunderstorms through Sunday. It may be a long weekend!

Wildland fire gear

April 7, 2009

It has begun

Spring around here starts off not only the wildflower season, but another season as well; the wildfire season. This afternoon we responded to the first wildland fire of this year. We haven’t received our usual amount of spring rain and the woods are already very dry: it looks like it will be a long, long summer if we don’t get more rain!

Before the fire call came though I was able to find a few wildflowers. The Buttercups have been out for over a month and now just seem to cover the ground in places. Yellowbells have also been out for a while now and have become more numerous too. (They are a western wildflower and grow only in eleven western states.) Fritillaria pudica

Yellowbell, Goldcup, Fritillaria pudica

Yellowbell, Goldcup

Another tiny western flower, the Woodland Star, began to bloom only in the past few days.

Bulbous woodland-star, lithophragma glabrum

Woodland Star

Since I greatly prefer the wildflowers, I am hoping for a lot more rain!

May 2, 2008

I’m afraid it has begun

In a rural area something that is missing is infrastructure, some would say by definition. Others might say that the infrastructure isn’t exactly missing, but those who live there often are the infrastructure. I was reminded of that yesterday when a call came over my pager inviting those of us who belong to the Rural Fire Department to go to the scene of a brush fire that was trying to get up into the timber. A house was near but not immediately threatened. In an urban area a fire call is answered by a professional team of firefighters: in a rural area it is answered by those of us who volunteer.

Despite the cold temperatures of a lingering winter and the fact that this area received far more than normal snowfall during the winter, the lower valley areas are already very dry and I’m afraid (I sure hope I’m wrong!) that the fire season started yesterday.

Eight miles from town as we approached mile marker 67, the dispatcher’s location for the fire, we could see a column of smoke coming from a shelf area a few hundred feet above the highway and off to the right a half mile or so. The voice of our chief who was in the lead truck came over the radio informing us where to turn off to get into that area.

Thanks to some good thinking and planning by the senior staff in our department, we have in our arsenal three wildland fire engines (brush trucks) which are light trucks which carry 300 gallons of water, a pump system which injects foam, creating a water-foam mix that is incredibly efficient and room for extra hose and all our other gear. The 4X4 F350 that I drove today had all it could do with all six wheels spinning to climb a steep trail up the mountainside to get into the right position for delivering our foam to the head of the fire.

After three and a half hours with crews working from our brush trucks, a crew from the state DNRC and a crew from the USFS the fire was out and being mopped up. We used over 1500 gallons of water and foam, filling each truck twice from our 3000 gallon water tender also near the scene, got filthy and smelly and had a wonderful time. Sometimes it’s fun to be a part of the infrastructure!

As far as I was concerned, the best reward came just as we were wrapping everything up when about 20 Bighorn sheep strolled out into a small clearing a hundred yards away and stood looking at us as if to say “thanks for protecting our home”.

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