Dozens of wildfires very active in Montana and Idaho

Wildfires in Montana and Idaho September 3, 2017

Above: Wildfires in Montana and Idaho September 3, 2017. The map shows heat detected by a satellite during the 24-hour period ending at 10 p.m. MDT September 3, 2017.

(Originally published at 5:47 a.m. MDT September 4, 2017.)

Residents in eastern Montana and northern Idaho have been living with wildfires that are nearby for a couple of months and the situation continues today. Dozens of large fires are still eating up the acreage and creating heavy smoke and sometimes “unhealthy” air quality according to the monitoring services of the EPA and other organizations.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills.

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33 thoughts on “Dozens of wildfires very active in Montana and Idaho”

  1. I was wondering why the forestry service will not sign off for the Global Super Tanker stationed in California, the 747 tankers 4 of them sitting on the air field when they could knock out half or all the fires in Montana. They have done there research and made it safe and designed the air craft for this purpose. I guess the forestry service would rather have small air craft that will barely put a dent in it to save there jobs rather then put the fires out. I’ve seen what the super tanker can do in the half the time all resources have done combined. I would not like them to try to save my house, it would be a total loss.

    1. There is only one 747 SuperTanker. It is under a Call When Needed contract with CAL FIRE. With their interagency mutual aid agreement, I believe the US Forest Service could request and use it on a federal fire.

      There is nothing magic about the 747. It just holds six times more retardant than a conventional “large” air tanker and at high altitude can fly to the fire at over 600 mph — similar to a DC-10 air tanker that holds about four times the capacity of a “large” air tanker. Like all firefighting aircraft, they can assist firefighters on the ground who actually put out the fire.

    2. BRET MOSLEY IS SPOT ON. I have lived in Montana off and on for 40 + years . The wildfires this year are a result of misguided policies by the USFS ! It is obvious that their theories are not working,and increasingly are endangering more people ,structures and wild life .
      Bret is again correct when he stated that there are aircraft just sitting ,and available . There are probably more than 50 surplus C-130 bombers sitting at Davis-Monthan air base in Tucson ; that could be [could have been] converted to aerial tankers that hold thousands of gallons of water.
      The little helicopters and their “Bandy buckets” are for show/public consumption only and do almost nothing to contain a raging wildfire . The USFS POLICY OF “LET BURN” [now hidden by another name ]must be reviewed by an independent panel and quashed . INTERIOR Secretary ZINKE needs to investigate and has been ominously silent on these issues !

      1. Racer47, 32 years as a firefighter made me appreciate the importance of BOTH airtankers AND helicopters in fighting wildfires. Each are a tool that specialize in their own distinct way. Using a “bambi bucket” for pinpoint, rapid water source-to fire turnaround has over the years been proven vital in fire control.

    3. dear bret you do realize that montana maybe could handle the take off and landing of the 747 tanker on one or two strips which are military and not equipped with the ability to service the retardant loading needed to enable those aircraft to assist in our firefighting efforts next time maybe stop and get informed also we do have smokey the bear working overtime and thousands of firefighters from all over the USA laying down their best efforts two men gave their all- these folks are pros who are doing their best it is so dry here that even grasshoppers are on restricted orders no late night flying

      1. HEY DINGO ;
        Maybe you should fact check yourself ,before you go posting incorrect information ON THIS FORUM ?
        FYI a 747 8F at 85% payload requires [MLF] 7500 feet of Runway . Similarly ,a 747 8 I requires only 6750 feet .
        Missoula ,Mt. airport is 9500 ft , Bozeman ,Mt., is 8990 ft , Great Falls ,Mt. is 10,500ft and even little old West Yellowstone has a runway of 8400 ft .
        Thus the whole state of Montana can easily be covered with several large fixed wing retardant bombers like the 747 , the DC -10’s etc ,etc !!
        The USFS AND FIRE OFFICIALS ARE ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL!!

        1. Racer 47, You need to understand that airports also have weight limits for aircraft and might not be able to handle the weight of the 747, the runway might be long enough, but the taxi ways can’t handle the weight of the 747. Tanker base pits are also not set up to accommodate an aircraft this size since they were built years ago to work with smaller tankers. Rest assured “we” as in the firefighters working with these aircraft would love to have them in our pit and load them to support the boots on the ground, but there are very few tanker bases outside of California that can support the 747.

    4. Just go out into the forest and see how bad they are and the amount of damage that the environmentalist in the USFS are doing! One good lightening strike and Hemlock Mountain will explode! Then then their so called water reparation will be more than gone when the rain and snow come.

    5. Hey, what ya’all are forgetting, or maybe just don’t know, is that the largest wildfire seen in Cal. is going on outside of LA. I would suppose that Cal-Fire is going to use those 747s on its OWN fire first. Makes sense to me.

  2. You need to review the amount of lawsuits filed by extremists that have prevented the USFS from doing dead tree and material removal along with other for mitigation methods such as tree thinning. When fire mitigation methods are properly used (prescribed low level burns, forest thinning, dead tree removal) then these huge fires don’t burn as hot and spread as far and are much easier to contain.

  3. The Rice Ridge fire near Seeley Lake Montana is an example of the Forest Services poor management policies…. … ANY fire that starts within 20-25 miles of any town should be dealt with immediately NOT wait and see what happens….. ( they watched this fire for almost 2 weeks,,, then got on it and unfortunately a young man was killed on the first assault prompting the Forest Service to halt fire fighting operations which then allowed the fire to get out of control..) Had they gotten on this fire ( because it was close to a town ) I believe this fire was controllable and we wouldn’t be in the position we are today ..

    1. Dan ;
      Very good analysis . The USFS and the State of Montana should both be held responsible for this debacle !It seems as if have gone from protecting ALL structures and communities TO JUST LETTING THE FIRES BURN UNTIL THEY GET OUT OF CONTROL . Then the hand wringing and excuses begin ;e.g too dry ,too windy , lack of resources,etc . This happens year after year and people should push back on the misguided FIRE MANAGEMENT THEORIES .

  4. Wow ! Prayers n thoughts to all those fighting fire… Be nice if they used conservation let harvest trees instead of burning whole state of Montana loss of trees homes lives should be important frustrating !

  5. Terrible smoke here in Clearwater County, Idaho. It is Labor Day and wonder if personnel ( fire) are enjoying the weekend festivities with all this smoke…so thick, it is heard to see and breathing, hah! – I have a hepa-filter allergy and smoke machine on 24 hours in my house along with a/c. I am going to rain dance tomarrow, I think.

  6. Des Moines, Iowa has had a hazy yellow sky all day today with the occasional view of a very orange moon. We have the windows open and it smells like I’m sitting right next to a campfire. Wonderful, but scary to know that all that smoke travels this far.

  7. If 85% of wildfires are human caused perhaps the forest service and BLM need to rethink where fires are allowed. Perhaps its time to either ban fires on our public lands or allow them only in improved campgrounds. Fires should certainly be banned in wilderness where we do not fight fire.

    1. They need to rethink what they do period. And the mud slides that are coming. All from environmentalist think instead of common sense.

    2. They need to rethink what they do period. All from environmentalist think instead of common sense. They need to bring in a bunch of these old timers to teach them how to care for the forest. Now they must do a lot of brush & rolling and bug control. Burming up the mud flow areas coming from clear cutting the ridges. They need knowledgeable people of old. They took care to keep the forest healthy for logging years down the road.

  8. Sounds to me like too much politics and California can take a hike. Don’t we “all help each other,” when needed. Let’s be honest, we really the help, NOW.

  9. We’re in the “heavy” smoke area and it isn’t fun. Last night when my lungs started hurting and my eyes were burning we took extra action that worked.

    We have a swamp cooler. Keeping this going brings in water-cleansed air that seems to be smoke-free. It also makes for a positive pressure inside our home, that keeps the smoke out.

    Additionally, our bedroom is really nice and smoke-free. We have a commercial grade ozone maker that knocks out the small particulates.

    Thank goodness because otherwise, we would have to leave. This doesn’t work because we have our goldfish to feed.

    Does anyone have an idea when the smoke might end?

    Thank you.

    1. We live on the bottom of Wisconsin by Illinois. We have a hazy sky and a dim lit sun shining here with smoke lining the sky so…. it is everywhere, besides the smell of smoke. Much like when St Helens erupted, we had ash and smoke for a long time.

  10. My grandson is one of the firefighters putting his life in danger in the great state of Montana. I also have relatives that live out there. My grandson belongs to a crew that was sent to Montana from North Carolina. Two of his fellow firefighters have already died from falling trees while trying to combat the flames. Instead of putting who the Hell knows to blame for these fires, try using your time and energy to pray for the men and women who are putting their lives in in harms way trying to save your state.
    Thank you, and God Bless the Firefighters!!

    1. I’m not religious but I couldn’t have said it better than N. Stevenson. My son-in-law’s crew was sent from Fairbanks Alaska to the Rice Ridge megafire in Montana last week. They are ALL doing their best in the most extreme environment that anyone can imagine. This fire was started by lightning, not fire crews, not their bosses, not the USFS, not extremists and not the BLM. Let’s focus on thanking the people carrying 70 pound wildland fire packs and chainsaws up remote steep grades in explosive fires to save a few replaceable structures. It’s impossibly hard and thankless work being done by REAL American heroes. I’m awestruck by these fine people.

  11. TO N. STEVENSON
    WHO IS CRITICIZING THE INDIVIDUAL FIRE FIGHTERS ? WE ALL KNOW THAT THEY ARE DOING THEIR BEST ,WITH THE TOOLS THAT THEY HAVE BEEN PROVIDED !
    THE PROBLEM IS POOR PLANNING AND NOT ENOUGH RESOURCES ,SUPPLIED !
    So far the State of Montana is a Disaster Zone !
    IT IS THE MISDIRECTED /MISGUIDED BOSSES THAT ARE THE PROBLEM AS WELL AS HIGHER UPS IN THE CHAIN OF COMMAND .

  12. Lots of vitriol for the “environmentalists”! Explain exactly how they started the fires. How many of you have read or know current fire suppression policy and techniques for various federal holdings let alone state and private acreage? How many fires have you fought? What is your plan for fire on your property and can you suppress it? Meantime breathe deeply and enjoy the smoke.

  13. God help those that are trying to control and put out ALL these fires. Pray for them , the people and the animals of this earth. GOD BLESS THEM ALL. PRAYERS FOR ALL AND THEIR FAMILY’S. MAN AND BEAST ALIKE. KEEP YOUR HATEFUL THOUGHTS TO YOUR SELFS AND JUST PRAY.

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