Warm Temperatures Could Lead to Another Big Fire Season

National fire center monthly report calls for ‘significant’ wildfire potential in August

By Justin Franz
A helicopter flies above a fire near Smith Valley on Oct. 17, 2017. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

A year after western Montana was blanketed with smoke from a devastating wildfire season, the region could be in for another big burn, according to a new report from the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.

According to the monthly wildfire outlook that was published on July 1, there is “significant wild land fire potential” for the Idaho panhandle and the Kootenai National Forest in July. That potential could spread into the rest of western Montana in August and September.

The concerns for another big fire season come on the tail of a snowy winter that many hoped might reduce the chance for fires. The National Interagency Fire Center calls for above average temperatures and below average precipitation for August and September. Those conditions could lead to vegetation drying out and turning into prime fuels for wildfire.

Officials in Montana are already gearing up for fire season. The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation have completed their preseason maintenance and have trained more than 3,000 firefighters.

Across the West, there have been at least 60 wildfires this season that have torched more than 500,000 acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center’s daily situation report on July 2.

State officials are urging all residents to prepare for fire season by spending a couple hours improving their property’s defensibility and resiliency to fire. A few ways people can prepare include cleaning out gutters, create an evacuation plan, and keep the area immediately surrounding your home clear of dense vegetation.

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