During the past 30 years, fires have increased in frequency and intensity in Montana and all across the West. The historic 2017 fire season in Montana burned over 1,252,467 acres, surpassing all previous years. Residents of Missoula were surrounded by fires and air quality was hazardous. As the effects of climate change deepen, fire seasons like 2017 will likely continue. Summers are getting hotter and lasting longer. Understanding how much of the burning was due to natural variability, lack of forest management or caused by humans is under scrutiny.
No matter what the cause, the reality is that fires in Montana are devastating, including loss of human life and property and long-term effects on air quality. Our tourism and agricultural economies are negatively impacted, access to public lands limited, and our state budget strained to the max trying to handle the huge financial burden.