Forecast on track for active fire season in Western Montana

Posted at 8:06 PM, Jun 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-13 22:06:43-04

BOISE, Idaho – Forecasters are still expecting a drier and warmer-than-normal summer this year, saying it could create a “normal significant potential” for wildfires.

The outlook will create some apprehension for Western Montana residents who are hoping for a break after last year’s epic fire season, which burned hundreds of thousands of acres. Last year’s big fires like Lolo Peak and Rice Ridge were all kicked off by a series of lightning storms in mid-July, but with conditions that became critical with an extended dry spell when measurable rain didn’t fall for nearly 50 days.

The latest outlook released by the National Interagency Fire Center with info from the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Rockies Coordination Center isn’t predicting anything quite that dire. But the forecasters are warning of similar weather conditions over the region.

Last winter’s La Nina wet weather pattern has played out over the Northwest. And the important June 1 outlook indicates above-average snowpack will still be melting out in the high country this month.

But by mid-July, heavier, fine fuels like grass and brush will be dried out, kicking off the 2018 season. And with high pressure expected to build over the region, fuel conditions will be much “drier than average” due to higher temps and a lack of rain into September.