Web site of Scott McMillion - Journalist, author of Mark of the Grizzly, senior editor of Montana Quarterly

Posts Tagged ‘Yellowstone’

“Pulled from the Brink”

By Scott McMillion
Montana Quarterly
Spring 2012

Private herds helped save America’s wild bison. Today, bison restoration remains a largely private matter.

“A Rare, Ghastly Night”

By Scott McMillion
Montana Quarterly
Spring 2011

While most bear attacks on humans can be explained, last summer’s predatory attacks near Cooke City remind us that occasionally, bears see humans as food.

“The Fires Next Time”

By Scott McMillion
Sept. 26, 2008

Think about wildfire in the West and it’s hard to picture a rosy future, except for the sunsets bleeding through the smoke.
Climate change, spreading subdivisions, a scarcity of skilled fire bosses, and the threat of legal action against firefighters if things go awry all combine to create dark and smoky prospects.

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“The Perfect Storm” First in a Four Part Series about wildfire

By Scott McMillion

Bozeman Daily Chronicle

June 29, 2008

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK – It started out dry and then it got drier. The rains stayed away, but the wind showed up in a fury and it stayed mad all summer, puffing out its cheeks over and over again. There was lightning all over the place. An outfitter got careless. So did a woodcutter. By July, the fires took over.

Nearly 800,000 acres – more than a third of the park – burned during the summer of 1988. It seemed like the fires were everywhere. You could count the smoke columns. Two, three, four at a time on some days. Ominous mushroom clouds big enough to create their own weather.

Millions of ancient trees went up like matchsticks and the smoke drifted across the nation. Scorched twigs and pine needles wafted 20,000 feet high in the smoke columns, then fluttered to Earth 100 miles away. Nerves frayed. Tempers exploded.

The summer of 1988 reintroduced America to wildfire. Big fire. Major fire. Unstoppable fire. Fire that hadn’t been seen in decades.

Such fire was no stranger to the continent. From Maine to California, wildfires had destroyed communities and killed thousands of people, burned millions of acres in decades past.

In Wisconsin, the 1871 Peshtigo fires burned nearly 4 million acres and killed 1,500 people.

The Great Burn of 1910 scorched 3 million acres of Montana and Idaho and killed 85 people.

But these horrid memories lived mostly in the distant past, before slurry bombers and helicopters and chain saws, before Smokey the Bear, before television could bring the flames to your home every night. Could these things still happen?

The summer of 1988 showed that they could.

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“The Aftermath and the Lessons” Second in a four-part series about wildfire

By Scott McMillion
Bozeman Daily Chronicle
June 30,2008

After the fires of 1988, scientists from around the nation trooped to Yellowstone National Park, analyzing the aftermath. They found an amazingly resilient landscape.

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“Lawyers, Smoke and Money” Third in a four-part series about wildfire

By Scott McMillion
Bozeman Daily Chronicle
July 1, 2008

Drier forests, more homes in the woods and a litigious society combine to make a risky future.

Dick Mangan has fought fires around the country for 40 years and can wear a number of hats: operations chief, planning chief and safety officer.

He’s also past president of the International Association of Wildland Fire, a professional association with thousands of members. He knows his business.

But these days, when he goes on a fire, his wife issues a warning.

“My wife tells me, “Don’t do something stupid. I don’t want to lose the house,” he said.

Like many fire bosses, Mangan has a new concern: personal and legal liability if something goes wrong and lives or property are lost.

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Reporter’s Notebook: “When Wildfires Burn, Wear Your Boots.” Last in a four-part series about wildfire

By Scott McMillion

Bozeman Daily Chronicle

July 2, 2008

When I showed up to cover my first wildfire in 1988, I was so green that I had rubber flip-flops on my feet.

An information officer at Grant Village in Yellowstone National Park took pity on me and scrounged up a pair of size 12 boots and some fire-resistant Nomex clothing. Then she turned me loose. Or I slipped my leash. I can’t remember.

I do remember that within an hour or two I was watching big flames bear down on some large buildings and a propane tanks, and when a slurry bomber passed overhead, it missed the target and coated me and everything else in a wide parking lot with sticky goo that looked like Pepto Bismal.

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“The Day the Music Died”

“The Day the Music Died”
Bozeman Daily Chronicle
April 14, 2005

Wayne Skertich was a builder by trade, but music was his passion. With it, he made friends around the world. With his fiddle and piano, his bass and guitar, he spread a lot of joy, lifted a lot of spirits.

On Saturday morning, at 2 a.m., after police had surrounded his home for 26 hours, after close friends and his wife had pleaded with him to come outside, he put his gun to his head and the music was over.

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