Wildland Fire Potential Outlook – issued June 1, 2020

Here is the weblink for the current outlook:

As I said, the Outlooks issued June 1 and July 1 give us a much better picture of how the fire season might shape up.  And, it is not looking good for Northwestern Montana.  We are forecast to have a more active than normal fire season in July, August and September.

Here is an excerpt from the write-up for the Northern Rockies (our Geographic Area including North Idaho, all of Montana, and bits of North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming):

In the western areas, higher than average soil moistures from recent precipitation, and within the remaining snowpack, will provide healthy live fuels growth and limit any significant areas of dry fuels in June in the middle and higher elevations. This will maintain normal fire potential in June. Considering that the Climate Prediction Center outlooks are indicating increasingly drier and warmer than average conditions during the core fire season months, Above Normal significant large fire potential is anticipated from July through August and will continue into September for PSAs 01-09. Although the likelihood is minimal, the potential of a La Niña ENSO pattern developing in late summer or early autumn could enhance the fire potential or extend the duration of the fire season.  (Note:  The North Fork falls within PSA 7 which includes Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.  The North Fork, being on the west edge of PSA 7, is sometimes more similar to PSA 2 which includes the Kootenai National Forest and Eureka and can be drier.)  

In addition, the monsoonal moisture forecast for the Southwest will push up into our area – and will likely increase the scope and scale of dry lightning storms in July and August.  We might be looking at a fire season similar to 2003, 2007, and 2017.  We have to hope that the North Fork will be more similar to 2017 than 2003.  Cross your fingers and be prepared.  Again, these forecasts are useful but are often not incredibly accurate.  It can either be better or worse than forecast.  And as in 2017, a lot comes down to how many starts we have (both lightning and human-caused) and what weather conditions exist at the time (wind especially) and the fuel bed it starts in and resistance to control.

Thanks, Allen