It's still at least three months away, but it looks as though Idaho’s wildfire season should be fairly normal in 2014. Ed Delgado manages predictive services at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.
“We’ve got good snowpack right now and assuming it melts off fairly regularly over the next couple of months, that’s going to be good for the soils especially in the mountain areas,” Delgado says. “So that’s going to kind of prolong the wet period.”
Delgado says the rain and snow much of Idaho received over the last six weeks likely saved the state from a much more destructive summer.
“We potentially could have seen a much earlier start to the season with a lower snowpack,” He says. “Snows would have been gone sooner, fuels would have dried out earlier and we could have potentially seen fire season start as early as mid-June this year. But fortunately, those late-winter storms that we’ve seen and the continuation of that precipitation has kind of taken the edge off right now.”
Delgado says rains continuing into the spring could mean more grass in southern Idaho than normal, which could increase the fuel for rangeland fires. But overall, Delgado says Idaho should have a “normal” fire year. He adds a “normal” year can still include some big fires.
Conditions are similar to Idaho throughout the northern and central Rocky Mountains from Washington to Colorado. But Delgado says southwestern states are in dire straits. He says California, southern Nevada, southern Utah, Arizona and New Mexico continue to face long-term rain and snow deficits.
“Precipitation that they’re starting to see now on the west coast is a little bit too late,” he says. “In California we’re seeing potential at a time of year when we normally don’t expect them to see a lot of significant fire.”
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