The burning question: How can Montanans be so careless to cause that much devastation?

UM News Service at the University of Montana has released a new study on destructive wildfires caused by humans. The percentile is beyond alarming.

First, the UM study points out that, "more than three times as many houses and other structures burned in western wildfires from 2010 to 2020 than in the previous decade. , and that wasn’t only because more acreage burned."

A perfect example many in western Montana can relate to: in August of 2021, the human-caused Boulder 2700 Fire near Flathead Lake burned 2,230 acres and destroyed 31 structures, leaving debris along Highway 35 and threatening power lines and traffic.

The study estimates that humans caused 76% of the wildfires that destroyed structures.  Many of those fires were in areas where homes, commercial buildings and outbuildings are much more common than they used to be. It's pretty doubtful that trend is going to reverse itself.


The bad is obvious. Humans are a driving force in negative impacts from wildfire. Increased lengths to the wildfire season and added structures in flammable vegetation do not make for a good recipe.

The good? Well, analysts are eager to point out that it also means that "human action can lessen the risks of wildfire damage." It doesn't take Smokey Bear to knock on your door to encourage you to be much more cautious and vigilant to know you can never do too much to help prevent wildfires from starting in the first place.


The study further states that burned areas increased by 30% across the West. But structure loss increased by nearly 250%. It's fair to say that the more we build in wooded areas, the more risks there are going to be.

And sadly, these numbers are off the charts right now.

Our thanks, as always, to UM News Service for sharing the data. A more detailed analysis is available here.

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