IN SEARCH OF THE MOMENT

DOCUMENTARY MEDIA BY DANIEL LOMBARDI

 

 

 

 

Wildfire

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August 8th

I dreamed I was walking through a young forest not quite regrown from the last fire. In my dream the song of a mountain chickadee was cut short by the rising wail of an air raid siren. It screamed in slow echoes through the forest. The sound was straight out of World War II and evoked an impending disaster. When the siren finally faded the forest was silent for a moment then a pack of wolves began to howl.

8/10 Sprague Fire Ignites: Tonight I stood out in Glacier National Park’s first big storm of the summer, enjoying the wildness of it. In addition to rain, the storm dropped 150 lightning strikes across Park. One of them ignited the Sprague Fire.

8/19 Sprague Fire is 519 acres: I hiked to the Huckleberry fire lookout today, 15 miles from the Sprague Fire. The lookout showed me how he used a fire finder to evaluate the growth of the fire, several dozen acres a day, over the past week. He said he’d been watching large trees topple down, spreading flames as they rolled.

A few decades ago this would’ve been a big fire but for now everyone acts like this fire is no big deal. Thousands of tourists drive by the fire everyday without notice. They come to see wild animals like moose and grizzlies but they miss the wildest thing of all.

8/23 Sprague Fire is 1,364 acres My little sister Sarah is sick from the smoke. She’s in constant fits of coughing. I can’t point to a spot on the map that she can realistically go to get away from the smoke. So I took her swimming. She had fun but said the water didn’t help her lungs. Maybe a good definition of wild is something that we can’t control. Fire brings wildness into our towns and into our homes.  

8/23 Sprague Fire is 1,364 acres
My little sister Sarah is sick from the smoke. She’s in constant fits of coughing. I can’t point to a spot on the map that she can realistically go to get away from the smoke. So I took her swimming. She had fun but said the water didn’t help her lungs. Maybe a good definition of wild is something that we can’t control. Fire brings wildness into our towns and into our homes.
 

8/25 Sprague Fire is 1,537 acres (Transitioned to Type II Fire) Scientists say that the historic practice of suppressing wildfires has been nothing less than a disaster. They say fire creates biodiversity. They say we should let 10 to 15 million acres burn every year. Everyday the fire burns closer to my house.

8/25 Sprague Fire is 1,537 acres (Transitioned to Type II Fire)
Scientists say that the historic practice of suppressing wildfires has been nothing less than a disaster. They say fire creates biodiversity. They say we should let 10 to 15 million acres burn every year. Everyday the fire burns closer to my house.

8/31 Sprague Fire is 2,091 acres I was reading and taking notes on wildfire ecology when I received the news that the Sperry Chalet had burned down. Sperry Chalet was opened in 1914 on a perch high in heart of Glacier National Park. It operated for over a hundred years as a jewel of living history in the crown of the continent. Everyone loved the chalet, myself included, so we all went to the lake to watch the fire. I sat with group of park employees at the end of the boat dock. One ranger reminded the group that fire is natural. Another insisted that it is evil. Another said we should reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to make fire less likely. I don’t say anything but I think the Chalet made the forest feel less wild. I think a bed and a hot meal are antithetical to the backcountry of Glacier National Park. After one hundred years of offering civilization in a wild place I think that this is a reminder that wildness is always there.

8/31 Sprague Fire is 2,091 acres
I was reading and taking notes on wildfire ecology when I received the news that the Sperry Chalet had burned down. Sperry Chalet was opened in 1914 on a perch high in heart of Glacier National Park. It operated for over a hundred years as a jewel of living history in the crown of the continent.

Everyone loved the chalet, myself included, so we all went to the lake to watch the fire. I sat with group of park employees at the end of the boat dock. One ranger reminded the group that fire is natural. Another insisted that it is evil. Another said we should reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to make fire less likely.

I don’t say anything but I think the Chalet made the forest feel less wild. I think a bed and a hot meal are antithetical to the backcountry of Glacier National Park. After one hundred years of offering civilization in a wild place I think that this is a reminder that wildness is always there.

9/4 Sprague Fire is 9,403 acres (Evacuation has been issued for some areas)
The nature of the fire has changed. Tourists ask about it constantly and locals feel more fear than curiosity. The air is hazardous. The community is holding safety meetings with the park. The fire has closed the Going-to-the-Sun Road. There is an evacuation warning out for my neighborhood.

I have long preached about the healing power of wildness. But now a wild thing is making my family sick, destroying my history and hurting the local economy. The value of wildness, surely still there, is hard to quantify. The costs, on the other hand, are clearly calculated in dollars and human life.

9/7 Sprague Fire is 13,343 acres
The smoke is so thick I can’t see across the street. I want to leave this place for somewhere civilized. The animals seem to feel the same. Yesterday I saw a grizzly bear lying in a creek. There are bugs everywhere. Large western conifer seed bugs crawl lethargically through the crack under the door. Hemlock looper moths swarm street lights that remain lit well into the day for the dimming effect of the smoke.  

9/16 Sprague Fire is 15,995 acres
A dusting of snow has finally improved conditions but smoke still hangs around the house so I drove up the canyon. I wanted to feel something wild besides smoke. Is it possible to separate the wildness that heals us from the wildness that kills us?

I hiked away from the highway in search of something wild. From a high point I could see hundreds of miles of wild and civilized world mixing around me. The sound of a train drifted up to me. A cold wind blew wildly up from a trailless canyon. The wildest thing in my vision, was the smoldering fire. It was naturally caused and burned through old growth forests and there was nothing humans could do, but now wild storms of snow are coming.

 

All content created by Daniel Lombardi. Copyright 2017.