Why Does The Missoula Current Think Fire Risk From Fireworks Is More News Worthy Than Actual Fires At Homeless Camps?

by Travis Mateer

Martin Kidston’s online news journal, the Missoula Current, is making some decisions about which stories to cover–and which ones to ignore–that I think RD readers should be aware of.

The scourge of illegal fireworks launched on the 4th of July is a story Kidston recently covered in an article with the following headline: Despite laws and warnings, Missoula issues zero tickets for illegal fireworks. Here is some of the reporting Kidston has featured at the top of his site for today:

Despite the pleas of elected officials and extreme fire conditions, fireworks across the City of Missoula lit up the night sky over Independence Day, all in violation of local restrictions.

While fireworks are illegal in city limits, no citations were issued this year and the number of calls to the hotline established to report such complaints decreased, according to figures provided by the city.

Still, a number of residents expressed concern over some of the larger fireworks incidents, saying sparks “rained down” on their rooftop. But even then, warnings remain “the approach the police department prefers to take” when responding to complaints, according to a city spokesperson.

So, despite the scourge of illegal fireworks being LESS of a problem than last year, Kidston is still willing to take the concerns of “a number of residents” into consideration for his site’s reporting on the fire risk during this VERY dry summer.

Speaking of fire risk, how has the Missoula Current reported on the 16 fires that have necessitated emergency response since JUST THE BEGINNING OF JUNE at the Reserve Street homeless camps?

The answer: they haven’t.

I checked the Missoula Current website and couldn’t find ANY reporting on the dozens of fires that have broken out at the camps since the beginning of the year. No headlines screaming DESPITE LAWS, MISSOULA ISSUES ZERO TICKETS FOR ILLEGAL HOMELESS CAMPS will be found at the Missoula Current.

Instead of reporting on ACTUAL fires that have been occurring regularly month after month, Kidston is directing his news journal to focus on POTENTIAL fires that could have resulted from ONE DAY of illegal firework activity.

Here’s more reporting on the firework scourge:

One Missoula resident told the Missoula Current that a neighbor several doors down launched a prolonged volley of fireworks in the middle of the street after the sanctioned show at Southgate Mall had ended.

Another resident caught the event on a Ring doorbell. Another neighbor said sparks were landing on his rooftop. The illegal display lasted for about 30 minutes.

“They were shooting probably 50 feet into the air and raining sparks onto neighboring properties,” one resident said of the event. “Another neighbor called the police but no one responded. Many of the residents were concerned that a fire would be started due to the hot and dry conditions we’ve been experiencing.”

The resident said a fire official showed up and issued a warning. Officials with the Missoula Fire Department didn’t return calls for this story.

I wonder why the Missoula Fire Department didn’t return calls for this story? Were they too busy responding to MORE FIRES at the homeless camps at Reserve?

I understand media outlets can’t cover EVERYTHING happening in a town like Missoula, but the contrast between covering fire RISK from one night of illegal fireworks vs. NOT covering ACTUAL FIRES occurring regularly at a homeless camp is just too stark to ignore.

Oh, and I should note, Martin Kidston did not return calls for this story.

Thanks for reading.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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1 Response to Why Does The Missoula Current Think Fire Risk From Fireworks Is More News Worthy Than Actual Fires At Homeless Camps?

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