You Could Live Here Alone Forever

Ron Henderson could smell smoke as he walked out to his pickup on a Monday morning in the summer of 2013, but he was not alarmed. There's no such thing as a western Montana summer without the smell of a forest fire. Blowups as far away as Canada or Idaho can waft hundreds of miles, haze a Montana day, and make a mountain valley smell like a campsite.

This time, however, there'd been a lightning strike somewhere above the stretch of residences on Lolo Creek where Ron and his neighbors lived. The blaze, which would come to be known officially as the West Fork II fire, was close.