Philip Higuera

Fire ecologists on both sides of the border say more logging isn't a 'silver bullet' solution to wildfires.
Nate Hegyi / Mountain West News Bureau

The sun is just a dim red dot. The nearby Canadian Rockies are shrouded in thick wildfire smoke.

Bob Gray knows we probably shouldn’t be hiking up a mountain right now.

“I have a scratchy throat,” he says. “Physically it effects my breathing. I probably shouldn’t spend a lot of time in it.”

Study co-author Philip Higuera holding a burn severity map near Lolo, Montana.
Nate Hegyi / Mountain West News Bureau

I’m marching through a stand of blackened, towering pine trees with fire ecologist Philip Higuera. He stops and sniffs the air.

“We can smell the charcoal here,” he says. “You smell that?”

Higuera is a low-key guy with a trimmed beard and sporty sunglasses. But when I ask him whether the massive wildfire that raced across Lolo Peak in Montana last summer was bad, he corrects my choice of words.