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Northwest states predicting normal season

Fri., April 13, 2012

 A look at 2012 fire season for states in this region:

 Idaho: Idaho expects a normal fire season – for now. The state’s mountain ranges have normal snowpack, reservoirs are dumping water for snowmelt, and early spring has brought more rain and snow, even in the desert-like south. Federal wildfire analyst Jeremy Sullens cautions early predictions can change with spring precipitation and the growth of grasses and plants that provide initial fuel for forest and rangeland fires.

 Montana: State officials expect a normal 2012 after cool weather and spring floods all but eliminated the fire season last year. Mountain snowpack is at average levels and, barring a rapid warm-up, fire season is expected to run from July to September, said Bryan Henry, a meteorologist with the Northern Rockies Coordination Center. The state’s plains are an exception. “A couple of dry, windy days, it will be ready to burn,” Henry said.

 Oregon: The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center predicts a normal fire season for Oregon. A wet spring will delay the onset of fire season but not affect its severity. Temperatures are expected to be higher and humidity lower than in 2011, which saw a below average number of fires and acres burning. Large fires typically come from lightning strikes in remote locations. “We anticipate higher temperatures, meaning lower humidity, gradually increasing fire danger up to normal levels, maybe a bit above normal, through the summer of 2012,” said fire meteorologist John Saltenberger.

 Washington: The Northwest Interagency Fire Coordination Center expects a normal fire season this year in Washington, after four straight years with below-average acres burned. The 31 square miles burned in 2011 was far below the 10-year-average of 200 square miles, in part because major lightning bursts missed the state and ran to the south through Oregon.


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