I have lived in Bozeman for fourteen years now and in all that time I have never had to deal with a fire that was so close it was visible to the naked eye. We’ve been very fortunate in this town to avoid such fires despite the surroundings and the constant influx of outdoor recreation. Eventually, it was going to happen and sadly it did this year when so many other fires were burning throughout the western US. The Bridger Foothills fire started on Septemeber 4th when winds kicked up an ember that was in a dead tree caused by a lightning strike. That little ember was believed to have been there for as long as a week before roaring to life. It quickly moved past the famous “M” and over the ridge to the east side where the fire made its way along the eastern slope of the mountain range.
For weeks the fire remained uncontained due to high winds, nearby housing, and accessibility. The priority on the eastern side was to stop the fire from spreading to the houses, which the fire crews did an amazing job but sadly 28 homes were still lost. Currently, the fire is 83% contained but the recent cold weather should help. The road leading up to the Bridger’s was closed for a long while but finally, it reopened this month, and naturally, I had to make my way up there to see the damage. It was remarkable. The difference between years past and the current status of the range is striking. Being a photographer you get to see and capture these changes when they occur, and while it is sad, it is also nature’s way of managing the forest. In time, the eastern slope will be green again but for now, it is a stark reminder of the power of mother nature.