As fires continue to rage in west-central Montana, fire scientists at Missoula’s Rocky Mountain Research Station are busy at work analyzing what the fires mean for this year's fire season.
Research Ecologist Bob Keane says the data on how pine beetle kill affects forest fires is still inconclusive; so far, it hasn't been a factor in the two major blazes burning in Montana.
He says what is unique about these fires is how early they are in the summer.
"These fires that happen in early season might actually protect homes later on, because they won't be as intense as if they happened at the height of a fire season,” said Keane. “They tend to stop at the tops of the mountains where we still have snow, so they might actually burn up fuel that will protect homes."