Montana Public Radio

Edward O'Brien


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

Ways to Connect

Firefighters loading up onto a helicopter on the Sunrise Fire.
Rand Snyder/Inciweb

New national wildfire response plans released Thursday give us a better picture of what firefighting will now look like in the COVID-19 era.

The days of big fire camps, those self-contained cities that seem to magically appear in open fields overnight are, at least for this year, a thing of the past. Under new guidelines released Thursday, they’re being replaced with a system designed to foster proper social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Interagency Fire Center Predictive Services is forecasting warmer and drier than average conditions in late May for western Montana.
National Interagency Fire Center

Fire experts are predicting an above average potential for wildfires in Montana later this summer. The state’s existing normal to slightly-above-normal snowpack buys us time, but anticipated warmer and drier than average conditions could significantly raise the stakes by late summer. 

Survey results from an MSU study on stay at home orders.
Montana State University

A poll released May 5 shows most Montanans supported Governor Steve Bullock’s decision to issue a stay at home order in the early days of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Montana’s June 2 primary election is less than a month off, and candidates are busy carving out positions, and campaigning as best they can during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of them participated in last Thursday's online forum discussing what health care providers say is the state’s rapidly deteriorating behavioral health system.

A new report shows Missoula’s growing population, combined with a tight housing supply continues to drive high demand and ever higher home prices.

Housing prices may dip in the short term due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. The long-term effects on real estate are still unclear.

Missoula City-County Health Dept Director Ellen Leahy at whiteboard, and COVID-19 Incident Commander Cindy Farr, during a March 15, 2020 briefing on coronavirus cases in the county.
Edward O'Brien / Montana Public Radio

Missoula officials say they still don’t have adequate testing capacity and don’t want to risk an unnecessary spike in cases by lifting COVID-19 restrictions too quickly.

Ellen Leahy Friday said Gov. Steve Bullock’s directives may be a good fit for some communities, but not for Missoula. The county health officer issued Missoula’s own reopening order today impacting group size gathering and some business openings.

John Smith, Jolene Brink and baby Leo Smith.
Courtesy Jolene Brink

The global pandemic turned the hopes and expectations of one young Missoula family upside down. They say the experience has fundamentally changed them, and not necessarily for the worse.

Leo Marlay Smith has a heck of a birth story. He arrived much sooner than expected when delivered late last month via an emergency c-section.

Hospital monitor.
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio

The Montana Hospital Association says it fully supports the Bullock administration’s phased-in approach to rebooting the state’s economy. The hospitals represented by the association are now outlining their plans to resume elective surgical procedures.

Cannabis in jars.

The backer of two proposed measures to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Montana is suing the state for permission to gather electronic signatures during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Initiative-190 would legalize use of recreational pot in the state. It requires over 25,000 valid voter signatures to appear on November’s ballot.

Vaping device

Montana’s temporary ban on flavored e-cigarette products officially ended Wednesday. But that doesn’t mean it’s back to business as usual for vape retailers.