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Montana wildfire activity expected to be average this summer

Posted: 8:37 PM, Apr 17, 2019
Updated: 2019-04-17 22:37:41-04

The National Interagency Fire Center is expecting average activity for significant wildfires in May, June, and July. This is based on a number of factors.

“The rate at which it melts, how much snow water equivalent there is. Then they’re continuing to look at what the el Niño patterns are indicating for the future as far as typical weather patterns relating to temperatures and moisture,” said Caleb Schreiber, assistant fire management officer for fuels with the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

The first thing to consider is snow water equivalent numbers, which are above average for almost everyone except northwestern Montana. Next is the drought monitor, and as of Last Thursday, no part of the Treasure State is experiencing drought conditions.

For those of us who are looking for an average or below average fire season, this may sound like good news. But take these predictions with a grain of salt because minor changes in our weather pattern could mean big differences in fire conditions.

There are certain factors related to the fires that you can’t predict months ahead,” Schreiber said

There’s also up to a 40 percent chance of above-average precipitation which may result in more lightning strikes, and that can ignite fire season in a hurry.

“Our large fires tend to be caused by lightning,” Schreiber said.

In the Custer Gallatin National Forest, 58 percent of wildfires are caused by humans, while the other 42 percent are caused by lightning.