Tepee Springs Fire Five Years Later

Fire and Water

Almost five years ago, I had my most dramatic evening of photography ever when I spent the night on the active edge of the Tepee Springs Fire along Idaho’s Salmon River. It was intense stuff: trees backlit by hellish glow, bursting into flames, red embers, air full of smoke. Watching the blaze and looking at my photos, it’s hard not to imagine that area being completely devastated.

Howard Ranch Postfire

So what does it look like five years on? I had a chance to drive through the area and take some snapshots from the exact same spots. And it looks like, well, pretty much anywhere in the canyons of central Idaho. You can see some evidence of the burn if you’re paying attention, but you’d never pick out this spot as a place where anything exceptionally dramatic had happened.

(These recent snaps are not good photos. Sorry. The light was bad. But they’re for documentary purposes, not artistic. So it goes.)

Tepee Springs Fire Descending


Howard Ranch Postfire

As of now, summer rains have just shut down a typically intense fire season in Arizona and New Mexico. California is having fires as they always do, and things could flare up any day here in the Inland Northwest or northern Rockies. Several places I know and love have been in flames this year. I don’t wish to downplay the reality of our increasingly severe fire seasons in the West. But it’s good to be reminded that much  burned acreage is lightly to moderately affected and will recover. Keep this in mind as you hear bad news and see all the dramatic photos. There’s a LOT more smoke than fire, and nighttime images especially can make even a moderate burn look like Dante’s Inferno. Don’t despair and assume your favorite place is completely toast if it burns, and DEFINITELY do not buy it when people talk is if every acre within a burn perimeter is now worthless and unworthy of conservation.

Blaze over Water


Howard Ranch Postfire 3



7 thoughts on “Tepee Springs Fire Five Years Later

  1. Typical backing fire in light fuels and trees that don’t have crowns down to the ground (like subalpine fir and spruce). In those lower elevation fuel types, they can sustain a lot of fire and trees do ok. except for the cheatgrass…..

    • Yes. I mean, almost everywhere in central Idaho has had this happen multiple times. But I think too few people realize that there are very different types of fires.

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