Episode 06 – Part 2: The Fire Triangle

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? Learn more now on the final episode of Fireline.

  • 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.


Justin Angle Previously, on Fireline:

[Rod Moraga]:“Fire is not going to change for us, so we’ve got to figure out a different way to work with it.”

[Kimi Barett]: “There are no examples of us as a society saying you cannot develop there because of all fire risk. We’re thinking about that with sea level rise and with flooding. This idea of managed retreat with other climate hazards, we’re not really doing that with wildfires.”

[Tony Incashola]: “I think this is a good example of that tribes’, one of the tribal success stories.”

[Dan Cottrell]: “The physical and the mental demands of this job have gotten a lot harder.”

[Lily Clarke]: “And what happens when it runs? It gets closer to human values And then what? Then fire’s a problem.”

Support for this program comes from Berkshire Hathaway’s Homeservices Montana Properties, First Security Bank, Blackfoot Communications, and A New Angle podcast.
Justin Angle Audrey Allen and Keith Harden are talking with our producer, Victor, about their go-bags.

[Audrey Allen]: “It’s almost become part of our summer ritual.”

[Keith Harden]: “Pick some prescriptions, you know, paperwork, get some stuff for the cat.”

[Audrey Allen]: “Certain paperwork.”

[Keith Harden]: “You know, maybe a couple favorite guitars, you know. They get to go.”

[Audrey Allen]: “Photos.”

Justin Angle Audrey and Keith live on the edge of Missoula. As homeowners in the wildland urban interface, or WUI, they’re figuring out how to live with fire. And those bags contain the things they’ll take with them, should a wildfire force them to evacuate in a hurry. They’re sort of model citizens when it comes to wildfire preparedness. Our producer Victor and I tagged along with a county wildfire prep official to look at the work they’re doing.

[Victor Yvellez]: “What are some of the things that you have to leave that you would be sad to have to leave behind?” [Audrey Allen]: “Well, it all depends on how much of a warning you get.” [Keith Harden]: “If I really had time, I’d take all my books, you know…”

[Audrey Allen]: “No, no, no.”

[Keith Harden]: “I have quite a book collection.”

[Victor Yvellez]: “If you can only take like one or two with you, what would you? That’s a hard question.”

[Keith Harden]: “Oh, don’t ask me. Don’t ask me. They’re all my favorites.”

Justin Angle They’ve already done a lot of work on their house. They changed the siding to hardie board, which is fire resistant. They got rid of nearly all their gutters, which can collect pine needles and leaves and other flammable debris.  They replaced the bark in their planting beds with gravel. But the house isn’t perfect. There are some trees they could trim up or remove. They’re thinking about installing a metal roof. A wood fence goes right up against their house, which can whip fire around the perimeter of a yard like a snake.

[Keith Harden]: “We do feel much better about a fire than we did say 10 years ago. I mean we’re not smug about it, but we’ve done what we can do.”

Justin Angle Lots of their neighbors have also taken steps to reduce their risk. But not everybody in the community is as proactive as Audrey and Keith.

[Keith Harden]: “If you look at that crap over there, I’ve talked to them about it. They like the fact that the trees block their you know, they give them privacy in the backyard. And I said, yeah, it’s a fire trap. Your privacy is a fire trap.”

Justin Angle There are lots of relatively easy and affordable things homeowners can do to get rid of the flammable stuff on and right around their homes1. But, for lots of folks it’s hard to find the motivation to take all the necessary measures. Until fire becomes something immediate. Next door. Like just a couple years ago, when a fire blew up just a few miles to the north:

[Keith Harden]: “You could see the smoke and stuff was just dropping out of the sky, just a little burn things. Some of it was warm to the touch, like, oh, jeez, look, you could see the smoke and and they knocked it down pretty quick, but it was pretty scary.”Justin Angle I’m Justin Angle, and welcome to the final episode of Fireline. A podcast about what wildfire means for the west, our planet, and our way of life.

Tens of millions of people across the West are in Audrey and Keith’s shoes —facing the reality of life in a flammable landscape. So this time, we’re gonna focus on homes in the WUI. 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?

This is episode six, Part II: The Fire Triangle.

Before we get into our final episode, we want to share with you a project we think you’ll be interested in from our friends at Wyoming Public Radio.

[ CARBON VALLEY- a podcast from Wyoming Public Radio. ]

Justin Angle Okay, back to the show.

I met Jack Cohen on a cold, snowy day on the University of Montana campus.

[Justin Angle]: “Hey, Jack, how are you?”

[Jack Cohen]: “Good!”

Justin Angle We stood six feet apart against a fence — he’d just gotten his Covid vaccine a few days earlier.

Jack Cohen So my name is Jack Cohen, and I was a research physical scientist focusing on the combustion and heat transfer of wildland fire, and for a good portion of my career, I focused on how homes ignite during wildfires. Justin Angle Jack’s work has revolutionized how we think about the WUI.

Jack Cohen I’ve been playing with fire ever since I can remember and so, I’ve always been fascinated with fire. I grew up in a rural area in southern Arizona and we would burn the grass in the spring. And we had burn barrels. And we had fireplaces and fire pits and and grills with wood. I always wanted to be there when the fire got lit and I was always anxious to be the one to light the fire.

Justin Angle Jack grew up. But he never grew out of the part of his childhood self that found wonder and awe in flames. In college, he studied fire science. He got his PhD in it. And when he set foot in the professional world, he focused on the physics and behavior of fire. I imagine the little kid version of Jack would’ve salivated over a job like that.

In this early part of his career, he didn’t give the WUI all that much thought. In fact, the word WUI didn’t even exist yet. He says he thought about fire risk in communities back then pretty much the same way big fires still get portrayed in the media2.Jack Cohen At that time, my perception was, well, the wildfire, the intense wildfire spreads to the community and eventually contacts the community and starts the houses on fire.

Justin Angle Fire breaks out and the huge flame front overtakes houses. Sounds simple, right? But as Jack spent more time studying fires, he started taking mental note of what was going on as fires impacted communities. And over time, he realized what he was seeing on the ground wasn’t matching up with his idea of what was going on.

Jack Cohen Houses were burning inside the communities, not necessarily on the edge of the communities.

Justin Angle If houses in the middle of neighborhoods were burning, then how could the wall of flames, coming in from the forest, be the culprit?

He filed these experiences away in his mind as data points. He mentioned one fire in Southern California in 1980. At the time, he was studying the effects of the Santa Ana winds – but:

Jack Cohen So I listened to the dispatch tapes and also had some perspective as to where the fire was at the same time, and found out that the first ignitions that were being reported to dispatch from homeowners was when the wildfire was about a half a mile away.Justin Angle Another data point, filed away. At the time, homes weren’t burning at the scale we’re experiencing today. But enough fires hit communities for Jack to file away a lot more data points. And by the late 1980s, the Forest Service began paying more attention3.  Right around this time is when Jack made a big professional leap, and began focusing on homes.

Jack Cohen And my initial research was looking at trying to scale the relationship between the wildfire flames and the ignition of the house. Justin Angle Jack told me about one time when he presented an early paper of his on the vulnerability of homes.

Jack Cohen So I give the paper and an old friend of mine who was at this conference came up to me and asked me why I was wasting my time on such research because it wasn’t a big problem.Justin Angle He said that sort of reflected the attitude back then. Some folks were beginning to recognize that fires on the edge of forests, where homes and trees mingle, were adding complexity to how people in the fire game deal with flames. But others didn’t see it yet.

Then… came the nineties.

Jack Cohen There were increasingly disastrous wildland urban fire disasters associated with extreme fire behavior as we go from roughly 19904.

[News clip 1]: “Of course, we’re talking about the painted cave fire. That inferno destroyed more than four hundred Galita homes and businesses in a matter of hours.”

Jack Cohen 1991 was the Oakland destruction5.

[News clip 2]: “Five years of draught and just the right weather conditions today combined to feed an explosion of fire. The biggest fire storm to hit the east bay in memory.”

Jack Cohen 1993 was the Southern California fires6.

[News clip 3]: “The fires have destroyed about 600 homes and have blackened about 100 thousand acres.”

[President Bill Clinton]: “My heart goes out to the people across Southern California who’ve lost their homes, their possessions. We’ve witnessed private property and natural environment devastated by these terrible fires.”

Jack Cohen And then we just progressively started getting more and more visibility.

[News clip 4]: “It was the devastating fire people were fearing…”

Justin Angle And Jack started to connect the dots.

Jack Cohen I was beginning to find out that totally destroyed houses were adjacent to and surrounded by typically unconsumed vegetation. If the vegetation wasn’t burning, then it wasn’t the burning vegetation that ignited the house. And so it had to be something else.

Justin Angle So – where to look? From Jack’s knowledge of burns, he had a pretty good idea: When a fire erupts7:

Jack Cohen you get a blizzard, billions of firebrand’s coming out of out of extreme flame fronts.

Justin Angle Remember what Keith Harden described when a fire broke out near his house on the outskirts of Missoula?

[Keith Harden]: “Stuff was just dropping out of the sky, just a little burn things.”

Justin Angle Jack said fire in the WUI is all about those embers. They loft into the air. In extreme conditions, they can travel for miles. This realization, to Jack, called for a major shift in how we think about wildfires. He told me about this really basic equation that’s pretty common in the fire world.

Jack Cohen The fire triangle. Justin Angle The three sides of that fire triangle are the elements necessary for something to catch flame: Oxygen, Fuel, and Heat9.

That first one —

Jack Cohen Oxygen is always available.

Justin Angle Because, you know, air… So when we get in the WUI, that leaves fuel and heat.

Jack Cohen The house is now the fuel. And the heat is all the objects that might be burning around the house. And the heat is also the burning embers from a shower of burning embers that lands, you know, on the inside corners of the house or in the rain gutters full of pine needles.

Justin Angle
Jack said understanding fire in this way means rethinking how we define the problem itself.

Jack Cohen An appropriate definition of wildland urban disasters is a home ignition problem. And when we start approaching the problem as a home ignition problem, then we’re not trying to control wildfire, we’re trying to produce ignition resistance of the home by reducing ignition vulnerabilities.

Justin Angle This is a major shift in thinking. It’s where anyone living in the WUI can actually make changes to protect themselves. If you’re in an area vulnerable to wildfire, there are a lot of projects big and small you can take on. If you want to learn more about the possibilities and resources to help, visit our website, firelinepodcast.org.

Jack Cohen The important thing is that as the density of housing increases, it becomes more and more of a collective community kind of problem. So the home ignition zone is defined as the house in relation to its immediate surroundings within about 100 feet. Well, in our higher density suburbs, you can have four to six houses within that home ignition overlapping home ignition zones.

Justin Angle Jack’s describing a classic collective action problem. All it could take is one house that hasn’t done the work to set off a firestorm in a neighborhood if those embers come blowing through.

Jack Cohen It certainly changes the social dynamics to where we as a community have to cooperate in increasing our are each home’s ignition resistance in order to create an ignition resistant community. And it’s the little things that are important.

Justin Angle Lolo National Forest silviculturist Sheryl Gunn10 thinks a lot about the little things just a bit farther out from homes — in forests next to neighborhoods.

[Sheryl Gunn]: “Do you want a factoid?”

Justin Angle As our producer Victor and I walk with her around some woods outside Missoula, we nerd out about one of my personal favorite conifers: western larch. They have needles that turn a radiant yellow in the fall.

[Sheryl Gunn]: “It’s also a deciduous gymnosperm.”

[Victor Yvellez]: “What does that mean?”

[Sheryl Gunn]: “That means there’s a cone bearing tree, but it actually loses its needles each year and then regrows in the next year. And so those are the most ancient lineage kind of trees that we have. So they’re very, very well adapted to live, you know, over millennia through repetitive fire.”

Justin Angle We’re walking around the outskirts of a neighborhood on the edge of Missoula, Montana , where the Forest Service is working with property owners to help prepare the community for wildfire.

[Sheryl Gunn]: “So all these trees have these kind of adaptations. Morphologically they developed over millennia to be able to persist and thrive in fire. And so we’re trying to figure out how as a community do we persist and thrive at fire with fire in and around Missoula. Justin Angle Where fire scientist Jack Cohen sees risk on and around homes themselves, Sheryl and others in the local Forest Service, city, and county, are also looking just outside homes – to the forests that border them – to try to reduce risk and fire severity.

[Sheryl Gunn]: “Part of the reason we’re back in this area to look at it is because the trees have grown in we haven’t allowed fire to play its natural role. And so we want to look at the opportunity to do a little bit more thinning and to do a more and more hazard reduction and risk reduction where we interface with this community.”

Justin Angle To figure out where the work needs to get done here in Missoula, they looked at a 450,000-acre donut around the city to find the spots most vulnerable to fires. The work is part of a protection plan called Wildfire Adapted Missoula.

[Sheryl Gunn]: “Addressing risk is really a comprehensive kind of process. And it involves, you know, a whole suite of kind of things. It involves wildfire preparedness, wildfire response, post fire recovery.”

Justin Angle According to the National Association of State Foresters, as of 2018 nearly 18,000 communities across the country were covered by wildfire protection plans like this one11. That sounds like a lot — and it is — but that still leaves about three quarters of communities identified as ‘at risk’ for wildfire without any such plan in place.

Here in Missoula, a patchwork of land ownership can make coordinating the work that needs to get done a headache. So the wildfire plan here tries to get private, state and federal players all working together across those property boundaries. In this area, where I just see the woods, Sheryl sees so much more:

[Sheryl Gunn]: “These are predominantly Douglas fir trees. And then there’s lesser amounts of Ponderosa pine and Western larch, but they’re being kind of shaded out by the Douglas fir. And they’re kind of being lost from the site. You can also see the crowns are all interlocked and interwoven. You can see a lot of these things called witch’s brooms—”

Justin Angle She’s talking about these dense bursts of parasitic plant growth high up in trees.

[Sheryl Gunn]: “It creates a lot of biomass up in the crowns. And so that condition is all very, very prevalent around Missoula and creates very, very dense kind of aerial canopy fuels that can create a very, very intense crown fire.”Justin Angle Those are the kind of fires that can send embers showering down on the nearby communities.

Improving these conditions means doing things like thinning the forest. That’s getting rid of the younger, skinnier trees that might have been wiped out if natural wildfires had been allowed to occur.

When that happens, the bigger, older trees have more space between them. The canopies aren’t overlapping. There are a lot of factors that can influence a fire’s severity, but an area that’s been thinned serves as a fuel break if a fire comes through. With more open space and fewer little trees to ladder the flames up high, the fire might lose steam in spots like this – giving firefighters an opportunity to catch it and direct where it’s headed. Those breaks can also be safe zones for firefighters.

[Sheryl Gunn]: “Things can be in the Missoula community, be a little bit challenging because people really love the forest and they kind of like it the way it is in many cases.”

Justin Angle That love of the woods can mean people don’t wanna change anything about them. Thinning the forest, getting trees out of there – it can seem blasphemous to people attached to the area.

This is a challenge in the WUI all over the country. One of the reasons folks move there in the first place is the natural beauty. A dense grove of doug fir is practically a box of TNT if a fire comes through. But when there are no flames, it can sure be pretty.

As a resident, getting rid of trees can mean changing the character of a place you love — of your home. I live in the WUI and I definitely get that attachment. But Sheryl says part of the aversion to change is an issue of timescale. 

[Sheryl Gunn]: “The forest is changing, changing, changing all the time, every single day. And what we do as a society, either by putting fires out or by taking some kind of actions, that’s going to impact that, too. So just our mere presence of being here has put us into the situation of having the forest like this around us.”

Justin Angle In Sheryl’s eyes, there’s a flipside to that deep devotion to place in the WUI: that sense of attachment can actually be used to inspire change. But to do that, the institutions trying to manage that change –  like the Forest Service – have to help the public see the bigger picture, and more than anything, build trust.

[Sheryl Gunn]: “People love and care about their national forest and this is their land and we’re stewards of it and we’re intended to care for it and ensure its sustainability for the public, for, you know, current and future generations. So, they have to trust that we’re actually doing what we’re saying we’re doing.”

Justin Angle To try to build that trust, the Lolo national forest has held listening sessions with the community on top of the regular public comment process. Sheryl says they’ve tried to be as transparent as possible every step of the way.

[Sheryl Gunn]: “It’s not enough for me to say I’m the silviculturist and I know what the trees are out there and we should go do this here. That doesn’t get us as far where we need to go. And for 20 years, we’ve been trying to do things like that. So instead, we took it this other way. Well, let’s build these relationships. And let’s if I have a relationship with you and I’m telling you we’re going to do this kind of work here, you have you really putting your trust in me that I’m going to actually follow through and do what I’m going to say I’m going to do.”Justin Angle Sheryl says it’s a long, slow, cumbersome process. But in the end —

[Sheryl Gunn]: “This point is just a starting point, right? We’re just laying this foundation kind of path to allow us to then as a community in a forest, grab onto it and then move forward.”Justin Angle What I got out of talking with Sheryl is that building trust and relationships seemed every bit as crucial as the nitty gritty work of reducing wildfire risk.

And that made me think back to something fire scientist Jack Cohen told me. He remembered working on a community preparedness project many years ago, assessing neighborhoods for fire risk. He was on break with a buddy and colleague.

Jack Cohen We were eating lunch in the back of a pickup. And we had been through a couple of communities and he said, well, you know, this assessment isn’t really rocket science. And I looked at him and I said, no, it’s not rocket science, it’s social science. And he said, ‘oh, my goodness, we’re screwed’.

Justin Angle So I figured I ought to see ifsocial scientists themselves think we’re screwed. Libby and Alex Metcalf study the human dimensions of this sort of stuff in the college of forestry and conservation at the University of Montana12.

[Justin Angle]: “So I couldn’t help but notice that you two have the same last name, is that a coincidence or is there something going on here that listeners should maybe know about?”

[Alex Metcalf]: That might be a can of worms you don’t want to open.” [Libby Metcalf]: “I think I might have sold my soul and taken my husband’s last name.”Justin Angle Point is: they’re colleagues, and they’re married. A lot of thinking about wildfire preparedness in the past has been in terms of what the Metcalf’s call a:

[Alex Metcalf]: “Information Deficit Model.”

Justin Angle That framework suggests that if people just knew more, they’d act differently13. If they understood the risks of living in the WUI and learned about the best practices of retrofitting their homes, they’d equip their houses more safely.[Alex Metcalf]: “But for the vast majority of folks, information alone isn’t enough to drive that kind of behavior. And it’s much more complex than that.” Justin Angle The Metcalfs say what really matters are things like free time, availability of resources, and relationships with one another: like, what are your neighbors doing?

[Libby Metcalf]: “We know this about behavior and we know this about people and we find ourselves doing it. So we recently moved into a new house. And, what we noticed is when we moved into our house that a neighbor of ours had somebody come out to do a wildfire assessment plan on their home. And Alex and I were like, oh, shoot, we need to do this. Our neighbors are doing it. We can’t be the one house on the block that has not done this. And so I think those norms are really strong.”Justin Angle Libby and Alex’s academic work centers around these social and subjective parts of the equation, when communities are figuring out how to adapt to a future with wildfire.

[Alex Metcalf]: “Like what do we want? What do we want as a society? What do we want as individuals or homeowners?”

[Libby Metcalf]: “Over the last I guess it’s been four years now, we’ve been thinking and collecting data around the social dynamics of wildfire resilience. And a lot of our work has been in two places, in particular, one being the Bitterroot Valley in Montana, and then the other one being in the Methow valley in Washington.”Justin Angle They interview locals, hold community meetings, and give out questionnaires. In social science terms, it’s a mixed methodology – looking quantitatively at what people have to say but also having deeper discussions about what really matters to them. [Libby Metcalf]: “We came back to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Right. They want their lives protected. They want their homes protected. They want their families protected. They want to make sure that they can prosper even though there’s something happening on the landscape. And so those are the things that are at the core when we’re talking about wildfire resilience. Yeah, it’s about learning to live with wildfire, but it’s also about how do people survive and function and have a prosperous life even though they’re living in a fire impacted landscape.”

Justin Angle Helping folks live their best lives wasn’t really on the Forest Service radar back in, say, Gifford Pinchot’s day, when the organization got its start in the early 1900s.

[Gifford Pinchot]: “Forest Officers have three chief duties: to protect the reserves against fire, to assist the people in their use, and to see that they are properly used…”

[Alex Metcalf]: “We always used to joke that Forester’s got into forestry because they wanted to be away from people and go hang out in the woods. But one of the things that forestry and other natural resource managers have realized over the past hundred years, sometimes painfully, is that we can’t go hide in the woods to make these decisions and to achieve good outcomes. We have to talk to people. We have to build those relationships.”

[Libby Metcalf]: “We know that people want to be part of the process. They want to be engaged. They want to learn. They want to share their ideas. But that doesn’t stop there. They also want to be part of that decision making process as well. And so it’s not just being heard, but it’s also knowing that the things that the community is saying is actually being part of any decision making or planning efforts that are going on in the community.”

Justin Angle The Metcalfs say the key to success for agencies tasked with creating wildfire resilience can lie in making sure voices are heard and valued. Respected. The emphasis should be on the process of creating solutions to wildfire vulnerability – not any kind of predetermined outcome.  What’s really interesting to me about these ideas is that they paint our future living alongside fire not as determined by big policies coming from up high — but from the micro-level. From the ground up. In the way we interact with one another.

[Alex Metcalf]: “Our forests aren’t the same and people are different in different places. And so our relationship with wildfire and the way that we respond to it has to be. Determined by those local conditions, both the ecology of it and the role of fire, but also the people and what they care about and how they choose to chart their path forward.”

[Kimi Barrett]: “Any change that’s going to happen is going to come from the community level. I strongly believe that.”

Justin Angle That’s Kimi Barrett of Headwaters Economics. You heard from her in part one of this episode.

We started this series with a kind of radical idea. You heard it from writer John Maclean.

[John Maclean]: “Fire is not some strange foreign creature, it is part of the soul of man.”

Justin Angle And the more people we talked with, the more I got to understand one central part of finding that fire within ourselves.

[Sheryl Gunn]: “Fires are going to occur and we need to learn to be able to live with them.”[Andrew Larson]: “I’d like to see a stronger focus on living with fire placed on the sort of the built environment in the things that we can control very effectively.”[Steve Pyne]: “We have got to recover how people managed to live with fire for all of our existence up until 150 years ago or so.”

[Jennifer Balch]: “We can learn to live with fire.”[Cathy Whittlock]: “You’ve heard people say that we need to live with fires, we need to learn to live with fires. And I think that’s true because fires so closely track climate change.”

[Tony Incashola Junior]: “I think going forward, there is an opportunity someday to really let fire play more of its natural role.”

[Jenn Henseik]: “There will always be fear of fire. I know that. And I don’t pretend there won’t be. But in certain situations there shouldn’t be.”

Justin Angle That’s Sheryl Gunn, Andrew Larson, Steve Pyne, Jennifer Balch, Cathy Whitlock, Tony Incashola Jr, and Jen Hensiek.

All of these folks are right. All of them. To see a future that’s not just doom and ash and gloom, we’ve got to learn to live with fire. And taking it all in, i’m realizing another way of framing this goes one step further: we need to learn to live with fire, together. As neighbors and community members. And that’s no easy feat. It means building trust and relationships.

A 2021 barometer of trust shows a quote “epidemic” of mistrust all over the world, and especially in the U.S., amplified by the coronavirus pandemic14. 2019 surveys from Pew Research Center suggest that most Americans think our overall trust in each other and in government has been on the decline over the last two decades15.

But to me, learning to live together with fire is a way to push against this trend.

It could mean  tighter, more vibrant and engaged communities. Where we trust each other, because what’s most precious to us depends on it. And that kind of work ripples out well beyond just wildfire risk.

As I started my walk around the woods near Missoula with Lolo National Forest’s Sheryl Gunn, a local came up to us.

[Sheryl Gunn]: “Are you Pete? Yes. I mean, I’m Sheryl Gunn.”

[Pete]: “Yeah, you’re the only one that’s every answered my call.”

[Sheryl Gunn]: “OK, that’s great. Yeah. This has to do it’s not a timber sale. It really has to do with a wildfire adapted missoula project.”

Justin Angle To be honest, I didn’t hear most of their conversation. Pete and Sheryl stepped away to chat for a bit. But that moment stood out to me.

This was one tiny example of the work that needs to get done, in all its messy and mundane glory: talking with one another. Looking each other eye to eye. Sometimes not getting along, but finding a way forward. As this episode is releasing in April, fire season is coming up and in some places it’s already here. Visit our website, firelinepodcast.org, for some resources on how to prepare.

If you like what you heard, please follow us — and leave us a review, wherever you get your podcasts.Victor Yvellez Fireline is hosted by Justin Angle. Writing, editing and production is by Nick Mott and me, Victor Yvellez. Our fact checking is by Aj Williams, original theme music is by Travis Yost with additional music from Blue Dot Sessions. And our cover art is by Jesse Stevenson.

Additional support comes from Montana Public Radio, United Way of Missoula County, and the Trailhead. Narration recorded by Studio 49 at the University of Montana’s College of Business. 

A special thanks to Audrey Allen, Keith Harden, Jack Cohen, Alex Metcalf, and Libby Metcalf. And also to everyone who made this show possible.

Justin Angle We have a favor to ask you: take our survey where you can share what you learned from this series and how we can improve our future shows. We’d love to hear your honest insights. This survey should take less than 10 minutes and your responses will remain anonymous. Visit our website at firelinepodcast.org.

Thank you so much for listening.


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  12. https://www.cfc.umt.edu/research/humandimensions/about/members.php
  13. https://oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228620.001.0001/acrefore-9780190228620-e-301
  14. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/01/pandemic-mistrust-government-global-survey/
  15. https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2019/07/22/trust-and-distrust-in-america/