Fire season off to slow start but could become severe

Posted at 6:23 PM, Jun 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-27 20:23:40-04

Recent rains and above average snowfall have likely delayed the start of fire season, but experts say we’re not out of the woods yet this year.

Although the start of fire season is delayed, that doesn’t mean we won’t have a bad wildfire year.

“We just experienced a very snowy winter and that snowpack melted off at a very average rate. We’ve had a delayed start to fire season and just with this recent wet weather we just experienced, we’re experiencing a lot of grass growth out in the forest and we’re just preparing to have that grass become receptive to fire by mid-July,” said Custer Gallatin Forest Fire Staff Officer Mike Gagen.

The National Interagency Fire Center Predictive Services are indicating that an area of high pressure may set up over Montana which could set the stage for an above average fire season.

“We talked with national interagency fire center and their predictive services as taking a look at the weather models, and they’re predicting a high-pressure system to set up over Montana this summer which will lead to above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation,” Gagen said.

Recent rains and above average snowfall this winter has created lots of high grass and vegetation which can dry out quickly and become fuel for wildfires.

“What we call fine fuels such as grasses, the smaller bushes grow out a lot quicker. From one day to the next the grass can be dry, and for Montana we’ll always have a time later because we’ll get an early frost so in August sometime we’re more than likely to have a frost and that’ll dry out the fuels faster,” said Marianne Baumberger, fire information and education specialist for the West Side Custer Gallatin National Forest.

The National Forest Service says to always put out campfires and use precautions any time you’re handling flames.

Click here for predictions from the National Interagency Fire Center.