Justin Bilton and his 70-year-old father barely escaped as the Howe Ridge Fire closed in on them in West Glacier, Montana.
Glacier National Park in Montana is a stunning wilderness of alpine lakes, dense coniferous forest, and epic mountains sculpted by vast tracts of ice—and now, fire.
A wildfire sparked by lightning multiplied in size over the weekend, prompting evacuations and taking hikers and campers by complete surprise. A new video recorded by a father and son desperately trying to escape their remote campsite as the flames closed in on their rental Subaru shows how the Howe Ridge Fire nearly claimed its first two victims.
Justin Bilton and his father were on the tail end of a western backpacking trip when they arrived at Glacier National Park. When they checked in at a visitor’s center, park rangers informed them about the possibility of lightning storms but assured them that no fires were currently burning.
The two then set up camp at the end of a dead-end dirt road near beautiful Lake McDonald. But the next day, they noticed an ominous cloud of smoke getting closer. Lightning had struck, and the Howe Ridge Fire was off and running. “I just had a bad feeling about it, and I was like ‘Dad, I think we need to get out of here,'” Bilton said.
The video picks up soon after he and his father hopped into their rental Subaru Legacy to make their escape. Things immediately look grim as Bilton nervously pilots the Subaru down the trail, walls of fire glowing in nearby thickets in every direction. He asks the question that would flash through anyone’s mind in that situation: What if the car blows up? His father’s response is pitch perfect, a brief light in the darkening tunnel. Well, we’re dead. Just keep driving.
Hearing that as potentially their last recorded moments are almost too hard.
Thankfully, Bilton was able to convince his father to stay in the car; the two managed to somehow reverse all the way up the path and run back to the lakeshore, where they miraculously flagged down a passing boat and escaped to the safety of the open water. Ten minutes later, the entire forest was on fire, incinerating their campsite and the hardy little Subaru.