The VICE Guide to Right Now

Watch This Father and Son Barely Escape a Wildfire

“Dad, what if the car blows up?”
Mack Lamoureux
Toronto, CA
August 21, 2018, 4:10pm
Photo via YouTube screenshot.

Wildfires aren’t rare—big chunks of the west are on fire right now—but getting a first-hand experience deep within the hellish heart of one is.

This isn’t one of those rare incidents which you kinda want to have happen to you. No, as this video taken by a father and son who were trapped in a car inside a wildfire in Montana shows us, you probably want to skip this one.

The father and son—Justin, 37, and Charles Bilton, 70—were camping on Howe Ridge in Glacier National Park, just south of the Canadian border last week. On August 12, when the two were sleeping, a wildfire was sparked by a lightning strike near Lake McDonald and spread immensely quickly overnight. By morning the park was blazing, so the two hopped into their rental car and tried to get the fuck out of there.

While they made their escape they started filming and the video opens like a horror movie set in hell. At first glance the road looks normal but then you notice the background is a sickly yellow-orange with flames licking about. You realize that the colours are a massive fire and that, breaking all sense of self-preservation, this duo is headed directly for it. This is when you first hear the Bilton’s voices. As you hear the father trying to calm his son, you can tell they understand the situation they're in.

“Dad, what if the car blows up?” the younger Bilton asks his father.

Advertisement

“Well, then we’re dead,” he responds. “Just keep driving.”

So they do. They make sure not to go too fast so they don’t panic and make a stupid mistake or too slow so the fire can affect them. Beside them, up against the road, trees are burning and the fire is raging, but the duo seemed to make it out. The two are bickering in the way only a parent and child can over whether or not they’re out and how fast to go down the road when they round a corner and just straight up enter hell.

They’re in the middle of what can only be described as an inferno. Flames dramatically and ferociously burn on either side of the road. Embers sit on the road and pop on the windshield. The mood in the car, obviously, becomes tense as the elder Bilton instructs his son to remain calm.

“Dad the car is heating up, it’s going to explode,” exclaims Justin Bilton. “Jesus, God, help us.”

Slowly, after seconds that feel like years, the two realize that the fires are dying down and they're driving into an area that had already been burnt. You might feel that they’ve escaped, but then they encounter a burning tree in the middle of the road. The video goes black and the younger Bilton tells his dad they “have to get out of here” and like a horror movie the video just stops.

Understandably, the two had to stopped filming at this point. According to the Boston Globe, they attempted to clear the log but just couldn’t. So, they got back in their car, threw it in reverse and backed it the hell out of there—Justin said they were doing 40 miles an hour in reverse at some points.

“It was absolutely insane, I don’t know how I was able to keep the car on the road,” Justin told the Globe, “But somehow—a few prayers and a Higher Power—we stayed on the road.”

The two got to a lakeshore that was, at the moment, untouched by fire and left their car—it would be completely destroyed by the blaze. They hiked the shoreline until they came across two park workers in a boat who grabbed them and took them to safety. Again like a movie, Justin said that within ten minutes the part of the lake shore they were standing on was completely overtaken by the fire.

Thankfully this Escape from Hell movie had a happy ending—let’s all cross our fingers there's not a sequel.

Sign up for the VICE Canada Newsletter to get the best of VICE Canada delivered to your inbox.

Follow Mack Lamoureux on Twitter .