Wildfires in the West are on par with death and taxes as something you can count on. A few are caused by people, but most occur in the days following electrical storms. A lightning strike can burrow into the roots of a tree, smolder and start a fire up to a couple weeks after a strike.

Some fires are far removed from people back in the wilderness and others — such as the Lolo Creek Complex fire in these photos, just outside Missoula, Montana, in Lolo — are in the urban interface.

It’s this blurry edge between the human population and forest where it’s more likely forest dwelling folks will encounter wildlife, enjoy the solitude, and on occasion have their homes devoured by wildfires. It comes with the territory.

Presently, people are being evacuated as this fire has grown to over 8,600 acres in just a few days following a storm.

Websites such as show what is burning where, the fires’ sizes and whether a particular fire is active or not.

Guide note: Chris will be selling prints of the above photos at his website,, and donating 50% of the sale price to the Red Cross. Prints are available in four different sizes, priced from $8 to $50.

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Montana State Guide Chris Chapman was born and raised in the fields of Indiana, spent time in Michigan, California, Washington and Maryland, but has called Montana home since the days before it had speed limits or open container laws. Now married with two young kids, he documents family friendly adventures: canoeing, fly fishing, hunting, hiking and camping, throughout the state. Chris’ Tumblr home is His other web home is