Edward O'Brien


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

Ways to Connect

The University of Montana campus, Missoula, MT.
Josh Burnham


The University of Montana released its fall enrollment numbers Wednesday, and the incoming freshman class is bigger than last year's at this time - by 24 students.

University of Montana's Main Hall.
Josh Burnham

All four finalists vying to become the next president of the University of Montana have now wrapped up their campus visits. U.M.'s search for a new president started over a year ago when Royce Engstrom stepped down amid declining enrollment numbers. Since then a search committee made up of U.M. faculty,  staff, and students and community stakeholders has looked for Engstrom's replacement. Ninety- nine people applied for the job.

Missoulian reporter Keila Szpaller spoke with Montana Public Radio's Edward O'Brien about the search.

West Fork firefighter serving as a lookout for Hotshot crews working below on the Nelson Creek fire.

Both state and federal governments have spent a combined $378 million this year battling blazes.

This was the most expensive fire season in Montana since at least 1999, when adjusted for inflation. Montanans may need to prepare for similar wildfire seasons in the future. 

Dan and Michelle Schurg show how close the Lolo Peak Fire got to their home in the Folsom Road neighborhood near Florence.
Mike Albans

This fire season has seen numerous evacuation orders across Montana, but some people choose to stay, saying they want to be present to defend their homes. Among them were Dan and Michelle Schurg.

In the wee hours of August 17, The Lolo Peak Fire destroyed two homes in their Florence-area neighborhood. Dan, Michelle and a friend defied a mandatory evacuation order to defend the Schurg home in the upper reaches of the Folsom Road area. 

Jackie Stermitz looks over the remains of her Florence area home, which burned in the Lolo Peak Fire on August 17, 2017.
Mike Albans

"I don’t know where it was, but the other day I saw one of my mother’s silver cups," says Jackie Stermitz.

"I see a cup over there! Ohhh – I’d almost rather not see this stuff, to be honest, because it’s all broken up."

Jackie Stermitz spent seven years in her home that was built into the hillside in the upper reaches of the Macintosh Manor subdivision near Florence. On August 17, the raging Lolo Peak fire reduced it and a neighbor’s home to rubble.