BOZEMAN, Mont. -

One Montana State University professor learned quite a lesson in how to better predict forest fires overseas in New Zealand.

Cathy Whitlock tells us New Zealand's climate is very similar to Montana.

Whitlock brought back samples of rocks and trees burned by wildfires and found those samples matched with ones from Montana.

Researchers say the link shows fires are not just a local problem, but part of a global change -- where fires are becoming increasingly large and severe.

"We've all spent summers in Montana when the valleys have been so smoked and we we couldn't see very far. Fires are a real health health issue as well as an economic issues. We've lost firefighters this year already in the U.S. and we don't don't want to put any more people in harm's way," said Whitlock.

Seven notable wildfires have scorched parts of Montana, including one currently burning near Superior.

Whitlock told us people living closer to forested areas are at a higher risk of their homes catching fire.