Aug 22, 2012 3:41 PM by Dennis Bragg - MTN News
HELENA - In a year that's seen hundreds of thousands of acres burn in Montana wildfires, officials are trying to gauge how long the fire season might stretch into the fall.
While the bulk of the fire season in the Northern Rockies is generally over by mid-September, this year's long, hot summer has some people worried about the remaining fire danger lasting for several more weeks.
Forecasts have indicated temperatures should start cooling over the next couple of weeks, but there are questions about when we might see a return to any significant rainfall. And that could raise fire safety issues, especially with the start of hunting season just a few weeks away.
Governor Brian Schweitzer is joining with representatives of the U.S. Forest Service, Montana Department of Natural Resources and other agencies on Wednesday afternoon for a briefing on what's in store for the remainder of the fire season.
Currently the Northern Rockies Coordination Center says fire conditions are "moderate" across most of Western Montana, with Central and Southwest Montana at "high" and much of Eastern Montana with "very high" fire conditions.
The most recent forecasts have predicted a "significant" fire potential to continue over the southern half of the Northern Rockies through September and perhaps as late as early October, especially if we see the warm, dry fall that's predicted.
In Western Montana and Northern Idaho, forecasters have been expecting the fire potential to peak around the end of August.