Living in western Montana means having five seasons, the extra one being what we call "fire season". Some years are worse than others, and this is one of those years for the Bitterroot Valley.
Where we live, we are surrounded by fires on all sides right now. Which makes for a lot of smoke! Which makes for red sky sunsets and a cool sun and moon.
This year has been the worst fire season we've had in the Bitterroot Valley since the fires of 2000. The Lolo Peak Fire is burning to the north of us through some of our hiking areas and nearly to Hwy 93. This fire has grown to almost 40,000 acres at this time and is not yet contained on its southern perimeter, so the Forest Service has extended the "evacuation zone" to our road at the base of St. Mary's Mountain. Some of the next closest wildfires to us are the Hidden Fire just behind Fred Burr Lake, and the Chute Creek Fire that has reached about a mile from Blodgett Lake. There are many other forest fires burning in western Montana and Idaho right now that are a little further out from us in every direction. They all contribute to our smoke.
We are not in any danger from the fires right now, but they have hindered our outdoor activities quite a bit, as we are inundated with smoke much of the time. The smoke levels have been labeled as "unhealthy" for breathing part of the time, and we sometimes notice effects from it on the really bad days. In addition to the smoke, road and trail closures have limited our hiking and backpacking in some areas. And not wanting to be too close to active fires has put some of our planned backpack trips on hold for now, too.
The fires will eventually be extinguished, as they are no match for our winter mountain snow. It's just a waiting game right now while most of the valley is hoping for some really good rain or an early winter. Just thought I'd give you an idea of what living in western Montana is like this time of year.