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Smoke in Bozeman sky brings back memories on second anniversary of Bridger Foothills fire

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Posted at 5:05 PM, Sep 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-05 19:05:44-04

Two years ago on Labor Day weekend, a spark on the Bridger Mountains erupted and the fire went on to burn more than 8,000 acres. This weekend on the second-anniversary smoke fills the sky of Bozeman once again with the burn scar being a consistent reminder for residents in Bridger Canyon of what happened.

“That whole mountainside was just glowing red all the way down,” says Bridger Canyon resident, Joan Chadwhick.

This Labor day is quiet at the Chadwick’s house. Chirps are about the only sound you hear and dense smoke makes it hard to see the Bridger mountains even at the base. It’s a similar but different sight than what Joan saw two years ago.

“Nobody got any sleep that night because we kept getting up and checking to look at the fire,” says Chadwick.

Two years ago, Joan watched nervously as flames crept close to her home, looking over at the fire.

“Ash blew and landed way over here, sort of by that house, and started a fire over there,” says Chadwick.

Chadwick says watching the fire spread as fast as it did, was unlike anything she had seen before.

“I had not imagined a fire would jump like that,” says Chadwick.

The Fire went on to claim nearly 30 homes and damaged nearly 70 structures.

“It’s so devastating for all the families that lost homes, buildings and really their livelihoods”

Joan says the fire taught her some things that you can never be too prepared for the fury of mother nature.

“It kind of makes you think about all the cutting that you do and trying to keep the grass green and everything- it didn’t really matter because the way that the winds were blowing it was totally wind-driven fire,” says Chadwick.

After the path of devastation burned, four days later she was allowed back home.

“I couldn’t even really look at the view for the first week. But we were so relieved that our house and our neighbors were fine because we had prayed about it,” says Chadwick.

On a hot and smokey weekend like this one, Joan is reminded that things can change at a moment’s notice.

“Every time it’s a hot and windy afternoon it’s really scary. I’m always looking out the window,” says Chadwick.

When she looks out at the burn scar, she’s reminded that new life always comes back.

“Good neighbors and good friends, some of them have moved on and some of them have rebuilt,” says Chadwick.

As she looks out toward the ridge, the reminder of labor day weekend 2020 will be there for years to come.

“It’s still a big scar because you can see all the burned trees and remember how beautiful it was-it still is- but it’s not the same,” says Chadwick.