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Above-average rainfall could lead to another bad fire season in Montana

Posted at 11:43 PM, Jun 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-08 14:16:01-04

MISSOULA – Fire season is approaching, and while many people think that the recent above-average rainfall is good, that’s not always the case.

“In general, when you have a wet spring, it’s going to allow the grasses and the fine fuels to grow in abundance,” said Matt Jackson, National Weather Service senior meteorologist.

And when the rain stops, that vegetation dries out.

“The fine fuels are easy to catch on fire. They are the first to dry out and any spark from machinery or campfire that gets into those fine fuels will burn very quickly, very fast and very hot,” said Jackson.

Jackson said it’s hard to predict exactly how bad this year’s fire season will be.

"We always get the outlook for the fire weather season. However, one of the things I’ve noticed, I’ve been working here for 25 years, is a lot of times the fire weather season hits with a vengeance or it doesn’t hit at all.”

He wants people to remain vigilant regardless.

“People just need to be aware of the fact that fire season will be coming. It may come in two weeks, it may not come for another month and a half, but it will come at some point. And people will just need to be aware and be careful with whenever they are working with fires, campfires, or equipment out in the fields," Jackson said.

John Stevens with Cascade County Disaster & Emergency Services says to keep pine needles, debris and dry grass away from structures like your home or garage.

Also, pay attention to when burning is allowed. Stevens says he will cancel burning when the wind reaches 25 to 30 mph.