May 29, 2013 11:00 PM by Angela Douglas - MTN News
BILLINGS - Last year, fire season hit early in eastern Montana. In early June, Musselshell County's Dahl Fire kicked off the season with a bang. Up until recently, fire experts were anticipating a similar start to this year.
"Initially, because we've been dry so long over the winter, we thought that our fire season was going to wind up turning out like 2012's fire season," stated Bureau of Land Management Billings Field Office Fire Management Officer Irv Leach.
But with the rain we've received in the past few days, moisture levels are on the rise. However, that's normal for this time of year and it might not be enough.
"We're fighting against something that's been built in the last 15 months," explained National Weather Service Meteorologist Dan Borsum. "We're missing between five to nine inches of moisture."
"Our heavy fuels and timber fuels are still pretty dry," added Leach. "It will take a lot of moisture over a good time span for those to recover."
This summer south-central Montana is expected to see above average temperatures, but luckily moisture levels are predicted to be normal. Of course, weather can change in the blink of an eye so the firefighters are ready.
"They're all on for the BLM and they're ready to go out and fight fire," Leach said.
Billings Interagency Dispatch is prepared for wildfire season, but when it will spark remains to be seen.
"It's hard to predict fire seasons anymore," Leach explained. "I mean, the weather patterns have definitely shifted."
Borsum agreed, adding that it's unknown if the current pattern will be permanent.
"Right now we don't know if we're into a particular type of pattern," stated Borsum. "But the biggest thing is that people need to realize what their local conditions are and be prepared for the worst, should fire threaten."
The following websites offer general wildfire information:
Fire Restrictions - http://firerestrictions.us/mt/
InciWeb - http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/
Northern Rockies Coordination Center - http://gacc.nifc.gov/nrcc/index.htm