Outlook: Normal, above-normal fire potential across much of West
BILLINGS, Mont. – Forecasters say there’s a normal or above-normal potential for wildfires across much of the West this summer, with dry winter conditions in the Southwest fueling concerns about higher-intensity blazes in that region, according to a new report.The seasonal wildfire outlook through August, released by the National Interagency Fire Center, also predicts higher-than-normal fire potential in the Southern Plains, East and Southeast, including along the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast.Already this year, wildfires have burned on more than 2 million acres, according to agency statistics. Much of that has been in Texas.
The outlook forecasts above-normal fire potential across nearly all of New Mexico and Arizona, southern and eastern Colorado, eastern Wyoming and parts of Utah, Idaho and Nevada. The western edges of Nebraska and Kansas, as well as parts of western and southwestern Alaska, also show the potential for higher-than-normal fire activity.”It looks about what we expected,” said Rose Davis, a NIFC spokeswoman in Boise, Idaho.More intense fires are possible in May and June in parts of the Southwest, she said. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor shows varying degrees of drought across most of New Mexico and Arizona, including a zigzagging band of extreme drought.
But the length of the fire season in that region could be shortened by monsoons that are expected to be heavier and arrive earlier than usual, she said.Officials were worried earlier this year about the fire potential in other parts of the West, she said, though wet conditions in California and regular storms across the Pacific Northwest and Northern Rockies have tempered worries there somewhat, she said.The outlook, prepared by the Predictive Services group at NIFC, predicts a generally normal fire season in the Northwest and Northern Rockies.
State foresters in Montana and Wyoming say it’s too early to tell just how the fire season will shape up and that conditions in June and July, particularly, will be most telling. Both states are coming off what the foresters consider below-normal fire years.”We have been here before, with these types of conditions. Sometimes we end up with a normal to below-normal fire year that doesn’t affect people’s lives a whole lot. Other times, we have extreme fire seasons,” Montana state forester Bob Harrington said. “It’s too early to call.”In any event, both Harrington and Davis expressed confidence in the availability of firefighting resources for this season.
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