Mark Finney has become a bit of a media celebrity.

Finney, a research forester with the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula, has recently been featured on the 'CBS Evening News',  'CBS This Morning','The Osgood File' and now, here on KGVO Radio in Missoula.

Finney's specialty is fire science, and he has done extensive research on all aspects of wildland fire.

"My particular research area include the fundamentals of fire behavior," Finney said. "That includes explaining the physics of how wildfire spread behaves. We do a lot of laboratory experiments as well as some field experiments to confirm the kinds of things we see in the laboratory."

Finney said the settled science is that many of the forest ecosystems are fire dependent.

"That means the vegetation and the ecology depends on various kinds of fires, and the vegetation has adapted to it, and really, it is unprecedented not to have fire as part of these ecosystems," he continued. "Without fire of those characteristics, what we end up doing is saving up all that fuel. Then all that energy is released all at once under very extreme conditions when suppression efforts invariably, what fire exclusion and fire suppression is actually doing is creating fires that are of unprecedented character in many of our western forests."

Finney said with so many people living in the wildland urban interface, a new paradigm must be introduced n regards to fire.

"The only way to  really prevent destruction by wildfire is to put your own kind of fire back in there," he said. "There are many kinds of fires. We have high intensity fires that kill everything in the forest, or we have fires that we can put in there under some controlled conditions following prudent forest management, which are actually very beneficial and not dangerous and can prevent future wildfires."

Finney says fires are inevitable, but there is a choice to be made.

"As Americans, what kinds of fires do we want and when do we want it,"  he said. "The choice is not whether to have it or not. It just gets more expensive and more destructive if we don't appreciate that reality."