FOCUS ON FIRE
IN THE FOREST
FUNCTION OF FIRE
A GRASP ON SMOKE
BEYOND THE BLAZES
President: Research key to
For years when I dreamed of becoming a Montanan, I imagined myself living in a cabin surrounded by pine trees with a fishing stream off my back porch. When my dream became reality and I moved to Montana, I worked to realize what I’d long envisioned in my mind’s eye: I live in a cabin on beautiful acreage, with a small creek. It’s very wooded, rather secluded, and perfect — until August.
While Montanans often describe the weather as nine months of winter and three months of company, the reality is that our weather offers year-round diversity. Except for August, when those of us who live on timbered acreage face the fear of wildfire.
As property-owners, we individually strive to do everything possible to make our homes as “fire-wise” as possible, often following tips like those posted at http://www.firewise.org. At The University of Montana, however, our communal interest and work is much broader, as demonstrated by the articles you’ll find in this issue of Vision.
University researchers study the components of smoke and investigate what we can see as well as the particles that are invisible to the naked eye. Some consider national fire suppression policy in an effort to determine the best way to restore the harmony between forests and fires with as little loss of life or property as possible. Others use wildfire fighters as a model for military ground force troops. An even broader area of research considers why there seem to be more forest fires than what many Montanans remember “when I was a kid.”
While forest fires have passed our “annoyance meter” and moved up to an issue of critical concern for Montanans, it is important to recognize that wildfire has always been part of the forest life cycle. And as a result, some things — like the black-backed woodpecker, boreal toads or morel mushrooms — flourish.
There’s an Italian proverb that reads: Out of a great evil often comes a great good. In the context of wildfire, this statement is certainly validated when considering the extent to which University researchers study the unique flora, fauna and animal life that live, thrive, and ultimately rejuvenate those blackened areas.
So, like many Montanans, each year I anticipate the arrival of summer, yet also dread the possibility of hot, smoky and frightening days of August. However, something that provides me considerable solace and pride is the fact that scholars at The University of Montana are working diligently to understand all aspects and ramifications of wildfire. A better understanding of forest fire policy and behavior today will result in extended safety tomorrow for people and property across the nation.
Daniel J. Dwyer