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The Bridger Foothills fire has been devastating for those who found themselves in its path. Twenty-eight homes were destroyed by the conflagration, as well as many other outbuildings, vehicles and other equipment.

Deepest condolences are extended to those who lost so much in the fire. But in the wake of the trauma the fire inflicted, a singular bit of good fortune must be noted: No lives were lost.

What happened on Saturday, Sept. 5, was a firefighter's worst nightmare — a rapidly moving wildfire driven by high winds amid extremely hot and dry conditions advancing through the so-called wildland-urban interface, where many homes are nestled among the trees.

In the face of such a force of nature, there is little that can be done except get out of the way. And somehow the agencies responding managed to get hundreds of Bridger Canyon residents out of the way of the rapidly advancing blaze.

Some 160 firefighters amazingly also escaped the blaze without a fatality. Three had a close brush with death as the fire overcame their position. But their training paid off. They used their fire shelters to survive and reach safety and were treated for smoke inhalation.

As is often the case, tragedy brought out the best in people. Residents from throughout the area volunteered trailers to evacuate livestock. Scores donated food and water to the firefighting efforts. Offers poured in to house those who were displaced.

Multiple agencies were involved, from the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office to local volunteers from local fire districts. And all are commended for stepping up to the overwhelming challenge.

This fire should serve as an alarm for all of us. There are numerous areas in the Bozeman vicinity with dozens of homes situated in the fringes of forestland. As the summers get hotter and dryer, we need to adjust land-use planning and landscaping around homes to minimize the threat of destruction by fire. And we must ensure all regional firefighting resources continue to be adequately equipped, trained and funded.

The Bridger Foothills fire dealt a traumatic blow; it will take time to recover. But despite the considerable losses it inflicted, let’s not forget to count our blessings.

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Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

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