Saturday, August 4, 2007

Montana is on Fire

I woke up on Friday morning and peaked out the blinds of my Aunt's basement guest bedroom in Missoula with hopes of seeing all the way up Pattee Canyon to the east. The sun struggled to punch through the dense smoke that settled in like fog over Seattle's Elliott Bay. In my bedroom at home, in West Seattle, on foggy days, I can hear the fog horn of the passing ferries calling out to other boat traffic. It is kind of a soothing low, guttural sound that prompts me to hit the snooze button. I bet I could only see about three quarters of a mile of the Pattee Canyon. Not good for air quality and wildlife and human life in Montana but what was really going on in my head was the scare that it will impact our shooting days.

Many times on shoots, I've used smoke (fake smoke) to bring atmosphere to a set. You can actually light up the smoke to create shafts of light or to make a bar really feel like a smokey bar without the nastiness of cigarette smoke. The effect is great and really looks cool. I just can't imagine, though, the look of smoke clinging to the hills around Helmville while we shoot several scenes for the film. The forest fire smoke would just look wrong.

There are several substantial fires burning in the vicinity of our locations. We are nearly boxed in by fires in Helmville and in Pendroy, the big fires burning in the Bob Marshall Wilderness are blowing smoke right at us. We may be jumping on the task of finding a few new locations in the coming days. We'll have to just get back to Montana and evaluate how it all feels.

Let's just hope they get rain and very little wind in the coming days out there. Let's also hope the fire danger subsides enough to take all the homes out of danger.

I'll be watching the National Incident Information Center's Website seeing what is happening as well as the National Interagency Fire Center website for up to date info. Montana has a good fire website too.

I have to admit, the idea of fire in the forrest has always seemed like a good thing to me. Biologically, it cleans out the understory and allows new growth and fertilizes existing or surviving growth. There are many species of plants and trees that depend on fire to open seed pods and pine cones to jump start germination. The fire can be a good thing. Even after the fires back in 1988 in Yellowstone, the immediate results were horrific, but the out come is some amazing new growth and life.

Obviously, fire comes at a price and the wildlife and people living in those wooded areas take the beating. Hopefully, they all dodge the fires this year.

And the photos above...they are shots of smoke. That isn't a big bank of clouds rolling through. It is smoke. The last shot is smoke coming out of the mountains and pouring out into the plains near Augusta. When the sun shines through the smoke, it creates this amazing light that is warm and romantic like a sepia toned photograph.

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