CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Nearly the entire country appears set to enjoy a mild fire season, fire officials say.
Recent rains have doused the typical early summer fire season through much of the West.
“Pretty much the whole Rocky Mountain area is looking good,” said Steve Segin, spokesman for the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center. The agency oversees fire management in Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota and Kansas.
“Right now, the current concern for the region, where it’s starting to dry a little bit, is essentially that western portion of Colorado and just into that southeastern portion of Wyoming,” Segin told a briefing for reporters Tuesday.
Fire managers say the entire nation remains at the lowest of five fire planning levels because of the current low risk.
Randy Eardley, spokesman for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that it appears only a few spots around the country will experience above-average fire seasons this year.
Eardley says the likely hot spots include Southern and Central California along the coast, north-central Washington State and central Minnesota east into northern Wisconsin.
“Looking from July to September, we’re expecting to see an increasing chance of above-normal fire activity in northern California, as well,” Eardley said.
“It’s sort of hard to define normal these days,” Eardley said. “But right now, we don’t expect any severe fire activity on a large scale anyplace else in the West.”
Eardley said Idaho, in common with many other Western states, received a lot of rain in June. Even though the moisture produces grasses and other fuels that can burn when they dry out, he said the moisture also serves to shorten the fire season.
Bill Crapser, Wyoming state forester, said many areas of Wyoming are continuing to see the spread of beetle infestations that are killing trees. He said that can increase the fire danger despite moist conditions.
Jeff Fedrizzi, state fire management officer for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Cheyenne, said forecasters predict that the typical summer monsoon season will begin in early July.
“But if August is a dry month, and we get the ignitions — whether they’re human-caused or a combination of human and lightning — it could be a banner year, based on the amount of available fuel to burn out there,” Fedrizzi said.
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