It's wildfire season in western Montana (and most of the western US). We were camping in the Lolo National Forest, near Lolo Pass (fibery aside - hence the name of my Lolo Shawl pattern) last Saturday night and enjoyed being safe and cozy while a thunder storms passed over us. On our way home on Sunday at around 11am, we saw several small fires started by lightning strikes from that storm. Firefighters were already on the scene with helicopters dropping water.
By the next day the only road through the area was closed, the fires had coalesced into about 5000 burning acres, residents were evacuated, and 5 homes had burned. By Wednesday, it was named the highest priority fire in the nation. Smoke conditions in the town of Lolo have been awful. These two images show flames visible in Missoula at night, and the main highway to Lolo Pass from a sheriff's vehicle, in daylight (fire photos from KECI 13 Missoula).
As of this morning, firefighters have contained the parts of the 10,000+ acre fire that threatened homes, and evacuees are allowed to return, but remain on pre-evacuation status (ready to leave again on a moments notice). The northern part of the fire is completely uncontained and in rugged country, but no homes are threatened there.
The speed with which this fire blew up is terrifying, and I lay awake being grateful that we were spared this time, and grateful to the firefighters who protected lives and homes under appalling conditions of heat, smoke and extreme danger. But I also thought about what I needed to save if we were threatened, and we know it is a matter of when, not if. Of course we will save our pets, our laptops, financial records, and some family photos.
As a fiber dyer, the first thing I will save is this collection of color samples, over 390 separate samples, each carefully labeled, the result of hours and hours of (happy) work. These are essential to creating colorways, they are my palette.
Aside from having been in the area during the lightning storm that started the fires, we have been only indirectly affected. The smoke at our place is present, but mild. But we do have friends in Lolo who have experienced nearly continuous thick smoke, and who cannot really leave because they have to be prepared to evacuate if the winds pick up and the fire takes off. Our hearts go out to the people who lost their homes, and our thanks to our brave firefighters.
Do you have a wildfire story?