First Summer Fire Forecast Released For Idaho

May 4, 2017

The National Interagency Fire Center predicts a slow start to Idaho's fire season thanks to vast reserves of snow still in the mountains.
Credit NIFC

The National Interagency Fire Center issued its Fire Potential Outlook this week. With the harsh winter depositing plenty of snow in the mountains, the risk of fire for the next few months in the upper elevations should be reduced.

Across Idaho, NIFC is predicting a slow start to the fire season – especially in the mountains, according to Bryan Henry. The manager at NIFC’s Predictive Serives says reserves of mountain snow from the winter are melting slowly.

“You can see up in the mountains north of Boise that there’s still several feet of snow up there above Bogus Basin," Henry says. "And what that means is, it will probably be a delayed onset to the fire season in the higher terrain.”

While maps released by the Fire Center show the east and middle parts of the state facing a reduced risk of wildfire, the story isn’t the same for low-lying areas in the western part of Idaho.

All that rain we’ve had this spring – Henry says it might not be such a good thing.

“What that precipitation is doing is allowing for the growth of a bumper crop of grass.” He says those grasses are going to begin curing dry out, which will lead to “an increased potential for a large fire activity in the lower elevations as we head to the heart of the fire season.”

Of course, these are predictions and subject to change. Henry says he’s confident the higher elevations will remain low risk for the duration of the fire season, but when it comes to grasses and underbrush, he says it just takes a single windstorm or lightning strike to start a blaze.

Long-range climate models NIFC consults hint summer may be milder than recent scorchers and could be punctuated with a few storms that would provide a much needed soaking.

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