City Club Missoula: Fire experts warn flames won't go away

May 15, 2018

Before we can stop having catastrophic summer wildfires, fire experts warn we have to change our way of thinking about them.

"This has been a choice society has made to have fire under the most extreme conditions," Mark Finney, a research forester for the U.S. Forest Service Fire Sciences Lab, told City Club Missoula on Monday. "There are alternatives if we choose to use them, instead of waiting for fires to start and then responding to them."

Greg Poncin, incident commander for both the Lolo Peak and Rice Ridge fires of 2017, added that 12 of the 30 largest fires in the past decade all occurred last year. While firefighters successfully contain 96 to 98 percent of all wildfires at 10 acres or smaller, 2 percent of those fires consumed four-fifths of the more than $3 billion spent on emergency response last year.