Fire Season in Montana

We live in the mountains, but you cannot really see them. We live in a part of the world known for fresh, beautiful air, but the sky smells like a giant campfire. We can see plumes of smoke from one forest fire out our window. If you walk out near the runway at night, you can see the red glow of another fire.

It’s forest fire season in Montana. Many of you who live in the Rockies know this story.

It’s never pretty.

giant forest fire

That flame from last summer is several hundred feet tall.

The area that burned used to be a part of one of our favorite hiking trails.

scenic montana

When a forest fire attacks your area, it’s inspiring to see people come together. Last year, we offered the hangar to refugees who had to evacuate their homes. Fortunately, the hotels in the area were able to accommodate everyone. For free.

montana fire smoke

One of the hardest parts of fire season is the smoke. Most people rely on opening windows to cool their houses off in Montana. “Why would we need an air conditioner?” I remember asking Martin. All summer, we sleep with the windows wide open. Then we close them around 10:00 am, and the house keeps cool until we open them in the evening.

“How about during the forest fires?” Martin asked. “Wouldn’t an air conditioner be nice then?”

We are not opening our windows these days. It helps keep the smokey air out. The air conditioner is a pregnant girl’s BFF.

montana forest fire

The photo above was Missoula, Montana last year. We only know Missoula is under there because of the GPS in the plane.

This grass fire below covered over 1000 acres last year.

wild fire

It almost took the tire house we lived in with it.

losing your house to fire

Yes, we were thisclose to losing our stuff. I had time to grab our computers, passports, a couple heirlooms and journals that happened to be in a  little box by the door, and the phone; that was it.

Was it scary? Absolutely!

But I learned that I wasn’t losing everything. All that fire could consume was stuff. It couldn’t take my stories, my memories, or my dreams.

Thankfully, the house received a lot of smoke damage, and flames scarred retaining walls and the landscaping, but the building did not burn down. The fire crews were amazing.

fire fighter plane

In other scary fire news (it doesn’t end, does it?!), we heard an enormous roar on Friday. Then another.

This aircraft is an Air Tractor, used to fight fires by spraying retardant. To give you some perspective on how huge this plane is, it’s about 15 feet tall with a 60 foot wing span. It’s operating gross weight is as heavy as a small airliner.

The pilot nearly lost all of his engine power, which meant he only had a matter of time to land somewhere. He had to make an emergency landing at the closest possible airport. If an airport wasn’t around, he’d have to find somewhere else.

Luckily, we’re here!

Over the next few days, Martin and a crew of mechanics are getting a new engine in the plane. This isn’t the kind of aircraft you can ground for very long in August.

Montana forest fires, you give us a scare every year.