See that little dot in the middle of the smoke cloud? That's a helicopter. The smaller dot below that is a bucket. The helicopter dips the bucket into a nearby lake, then dumps the water onto the fire.
This fire is, for now, the #1 priority fire in the country, which means that it has first dibs on whatever national firefighting resources become available. It's good to have high priority, because it means you get a lot of resources, relatively speaking. It's bad to have high priority, because it means the fire is threatening a lot of property. About 700 houses have been evacuated -- or, I should say, are under mandatory evacuation orders; not all Montanans obey mandatory orders -- and the whole town of Seeley Lake could be ordered to evacuate at any time.
Among the evacuated houses is one where my mother lives half the year, which is why I happen to know about this fire. (I couldn't even tell you what time zone the #2 fire in the country is in.) There's reason to hope that her house won't be burned to the ground; God willing and the winds behave, very few houses will be. (The last report I heard was of one residence and several outbuildings burned, and several additional buildings damaged.)
It's an odd feeling to have this in the back of your mind while listening to the readings from Sunday. It kind of makes the whole "one's life does not consist of possessions" less of a platitude and more of a challenge.
*. As of today, the fire is said to be "10% contained"; best not to think too hard about what less than 100% containment actually means. The prediction for 100% containment is September 15, six weeks after the fire started. And I should say that most of the work of fighting these fires is done on the ground. There are nearly five hundred firefighters working on this, only a few of whom are in the air.