John McColgan took this stunning photograph in the Bitterroot National Forest, Montana, on Aug. 6, 2000. McColgan is a fire behavior analyst working for the Alaska Forest Service in Fairbanks, Alaska. The picture shows two elk standing in a stream, perhaps seeking shelter from the rapidly-spreading flames.
Toward the end of August, the Bitterroot Valley wildfires would merge with the Mussigbrod wildfires in the Big Hole River drainage basin to burn more than 247,000 acres. As of mid-September 2000, in what has been one of the worst fire seasons in U.S. history, wildfires have consumed more than 6,650,000 acres (10,389 square miles) across the countrya total area greater in size than the state of Maryland (9,774 square miles).
Photo courtesy John McColgan, Alaska Forest Service (If republished, please credit John McColgan, Alaska Forest Service)