John Maclean knows about firefighters, and the tragedies they can endure. But still, nothing ever prepares him for hearing news like that out of Arizona, in which 19 Hotshot crew members died while battling a fire.
“I know people die on the job but a whole crew at one whack? It should not happen,” said Maclean.
Maclean has written four books on American wildfires, including Fire on the Mountain and The Esperanza Fire, and each time a major one flares up, he knows the true cost it could bring. In fact, he says fires have been getting worse.
“If you talk to people on the fireline, you’re talking to believers in climate change. The fires are bigger. They're hotter. There's a whole host of reasons behind it,” said Maclean.
He says that includes beetle-killed trees, mixed with high wind events. His research of past events frames his viewpoint.
His research includes the Big Blowup wildfire, which scorched parts of Idaho and Montana. It burned more than 3 million acres, and killed more than 80 people. Maclean says that event was fueled by similar conditions to the dry ones folks are dealing with in modern times.
“This is something that we thought we would put behind us. You haven't put deaths behind you. The notion of never again is a false notion,” said Maclean.
When it comes to Montana, he knows the fire season this time around could be a bad one. A wet spring put the grass up, and now a heat wave is drying things up.