Human Dimensions of Fire Management
Wildland Urban Interface
The lightning-ignited Lolo Peak fire in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness was discovered on July 12, 2017, burning in an area of high tree mortality and rugged terrain. During the field trip, which was held as part of the May 2018 Fire Continuum Conference, managers, scientists, a county sheriff, and a property owner guided 41 participants through a series of stops with views of the burn area and prior fuel treatments. They highlighted the science, management and safety challenges, and public communication priorities that informed decisions on managing the fire, which burned until late October and reached 54,000 acres in size.
Although most of Spring 2017 was wet and green in western Montana, numerous consecutive days of 90+ degree weather with no significant precipitation led to a flash drought, or a rapid-onset drought. By July 12th, lightning storms had started numerous fires near Missoula, and in surrounding areas. On July 15th, an air attack plane discovered the Lolo Peak Fire burning at high elevation in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. Throughout the remainder of the fire season, many fires ignited and burned in the Northern Rockies and the Pacific Northwest, causing smoky conditions throughout the region.