Edward O'Brien

Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.

This fire season has seen numerous evacuation orders across Montana, but some people choose to stay, saying they want to be present to defend their homes. Among them were Dan and Michelle Schurg.

In the wee hours of August 17, The Lolo Peak Fire destroyed two homes in their Florence-area neighborhood. Dan, Michelle and a friend defied a mandatory evacuation order to defend the Schurg home in the upper reaches of the Folsom Road area. 

The search for the University of Montana’s next president has now been whittled down to four finalists. They’ll all visit Missoula later this month. One could take the helm of UM possibly as soon as spring semester.

Wildfire smoke has inundated communities across western Montana this summer and officials are worried about its impacts on human health, physical and otherwise.

Missoula City-County Air Quality Specialist Sarah Coefield understands the negative health impacts of air pollution better than most, but even she was startled by its impacts earlier this week.

The University of Montana might just meet its modest student enrollment goals for fall semester, which starts this week.

University of Montana President Sheila Stearns says she obsessively watches student enrollment projections. During a start-of-fall-semester convocation Wednesday, Stearns said that, while fall semester’s final numbers won’t be tallied for a few more weeks, she likes the early indicators crossing her desk.

An abrupt change in wind direction on the almost 31,000 acre Rice Ridge Fire near Seeley Lake Monday  triggered a new round of evacuations, forcing hundreds from their homes.

A handful of evacuees wound up at the Red Cross Shelter at Missoula’s University Congregational Church.

The Missoula Police Department took a report Monday morning from a man claiming he’d just shot someone in a downtown apartment and was holding several hostages.

"The male demanded a $20,000 ransom. So, officers from the Missoula Police Department, the sheriff’s department and the FBI responded,” says Missoula Police Lieutenant Bob Bouchee.

The University of Montana’s faculty union is accusing UM’s administration of violating its own policies regarding hiring contracts for campus lecturers.

The University faculty union filed a formal grievance Thursday against UM for how it’s handling non-tenured faculty. Union spokesperson Lee Banville says at least 34 lecturers received notification from the University that they will not be rehired for spring semester 2018, despite signing an annual contract.

Seeley Lake-area kids will at least have a buffer from the dangerous local wildfire smoke when school resumes. The Missoula County Health Department and school officials are teaming up to place highly efficient HEPA air filters throughout local schools.  

Today's air quality report from Missoula City-County Air Quality Specialist Sarah Coefield:

On Monday Lolo Peak Fire managers said their burnout operations on the Lolo Peak Fire "probably" led to the destruction of two homes and several outbuildings. Tuesday, they took a more circumspect approach.

Greg Poncin is Incident Commander on the Lolo Peak Fire. MTPR's Edward O'Brien spoke to Poncin Tuesday at his fire camp outside of Florence.

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