Montana Public Radio

By just about every measure, wildfires are getting bigger, hotter, and more devastating than we’ve ever seen before. But what all that fire means -- and what to do about it -- depends on who you ask.

Our view of fire is complicated. There’s fire as catastrophe, as something to be controlled and wiped off the landscape, feared. And there’s fire as something natural and essential, beautiful.

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Trailer 1 min 47 sec

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Fireline: a six part series about what wildfire means for the West, our planet and our way of life. Coming March 9, 2021.

Jan 23

1 min 47 sec

When Lily Clarke arrived at the August Complex Fire, it was a fire of sensational size. The blaze eventually burned more than 1 million acres, becoming the largest recorded wildfire in California history. Across the country in 2020, flames charred an area size nearly 5 times the size of Yellowstone National Park — the largest swathe of land burned since reliable records began. Wildfires across the country are getting bigger, hotter, and more devastating. But what's all this fire really mean — for the west, for firefighters, and for everyday folks? And what's it really like to fight fire on the ground? Lily Clarke fights wildfire for the US Forest Service and received her Master of Science in Systems Ecology from the University of Montana. John Maclean is the author of 5 books about wildfire.

Mar 9

28 min 57 sec

In 1910, a wildfire the size of Connecticut engulfed parts of Montana, Idaho and Washington. Ed Pulaski and his crew were among the many people trapped by the enormous blaze. The Big Burn, as it came to be known, helped propel a culture of fire suppression that persists in many forms  to this day. What does that massive fire mean for the way our society deals with the wildfires of today?  Jim See is the president of the Pulaski Project in Wallace, Idaho. Steve Pyne is a fire historian, and emeritus professor at Arizona State University.  Andrew Larson is a forest ecologist, professor at the University of Montana, and director of the Wilderness Institute.

Mar 16

36 min 38 sec

The connection between humans and fire goes back millions of years. What started with campfires and cooking grew into a burning addiction that catalyzed the Industrial Revolution and now shapes nearly every aspect of our society. Now, our ongoing reliance on fire in its many forms is changing the climate with explosive consequences for wildfires — and much more.   Richard Wrangham is emeritus professor at Harvard University and the author of Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human Jennifer Balch is a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the director of the Earth Lab at the University. Cathy Whitlock is a regents professor at Montana State University, and the director of the MSU Paleoecology Lab.

Mar 23

33 min 16 sec

For millennia, wildfire was part of life in North America. Indigenous people used it for tradition and ceremony, to improve the health of ecosystems, and to assist with hunting and gathering. But the arrival of white settlers marked the beginning of an era in which that knowledge around fire and its role on the landscape was suppressed. Now, indigenous groups across the country are working to revive tribal relationships with fire. Today, one story of bringing fire back to the land on the Flathead Reservation in Northwest Montana.  - Andy Bidwell is a fuels specialist for the U.S. Forest Service  - Tony Incashola Jr. is the head of forestry for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes  - Tony Incashola Sr. is a Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes elder and the director of the Selis-Qispe Culture Committee  - Germaine White is an educator and former cultural resource manager for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes

Mar 30

34 min 54 sec

There are more than 30,000 people who fight wildfires in the U.S, and about 400 firefighters have died on the job over the last two decades. As fire seasons get longer and longer and fires become more devastating, the physical and mental toll on firefighters themselves is also growing. Brent Ruby is a professor at the University of Montana and the director of the Montana Center for Work Physiology and Exercise Metabolism Dan Cottrell is the training foreman at the Missoula Smokejumper Base. Nelda St. Claire is a former National Critical Incident Stress Program Manager for the Bureau of Land Management

Apr 6

35 min 3 sec

The Wildland Urban Interface, or WUI, is where forest and homes meet. It’s the fastest growing land use type in the nation, and also where one in three homes across the country are situated. What’s it mean to live in the WUI, where the stakes of wildfire are higher than anywhere else? And why is this area so vulnerable to fire? Jen Henseik is the Missoula district ranger for the Lolo National Forest Rod Moraga is a firefighter and the CEO of Anchor Point, a wildland fire solutions group based in Boulder, Colorado Kimi Barrett leads Headwaters Economics’ research in wildfire and other natural hazards and is the Program Coordinator for the Community Planning Assistance for Wildfire program

Apr 13

31 min 51 sec

Tens of millions of people across the West are facing the reality of life in a flammable landscape. When we hear about communities getting wiped out by wildfires, what’s actually going on? Why is it happening? And, what can we do about it? Jack Cohen is a retired U.S. Forest Service research physical scientist who focusing on the combustion and heat transfer of wildland fire Sheryl Gunn is a silviculturist with the Lolo National Forest Alex Metcalf is a social scientist focused on the broad field of human dimensions on natural resources and a professor at the University of Montana. Libby Metcalf is a social scientist specializing in the way humans interact with their natural environment and a professor at the University of Montana.

Apr 20

35 min 24 sec

From our friends at Wyoming Public Media, we present HumaNature, a show about where humans and habitat meet.  Today's episode, "Sanctuary," takes you back to 2012, 30 wolves and wolf-dogs were living at W.O.L.F. Sanctuary in northern Colorado. But one sunny June morning, a massive wildfire closed in on their mountain home.

Jun 15

29 min 27 sec

This time on Fireline, we're bringing you an episode from our friends at On The Green Fence.  On The Green Fence is a podcast that explores complex and often divisive environmental topics where the best way forward isn't always clear. This episode focuses on the relationship between sustainability and tourism. Find more On The Green Fence wherever you get your podcasts.   

Aug 16

29 min 11 sec