Surges Of Rain, Snow Keep Western Wildfires At Bay

Jun 27, 2014

Scenes like this have been rare in Idaho and other Western states this year, as the U.S. wildfire season is off to a slow start.
Credit Douglas Forest Protective Association

The number of acres burned by wildfires across the U.S. so far this year is less than half the 10 year average.

Figures from the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise show 865,030 acres have burned this year throughout the country. That’s just 44 percent of the 10-year average. The 25,096 fires are 70 percent of the average.

In Idaho, the fire season has been minimal to date. A series of grass fires in southern Idaho have been relatively small and easily contained. Forest fires have been even more rare. InciWeb, the government’s online resource for fire information, shows just one Idaho forest fire in June. The Gold Fire burned 80 acres of lodgepole pine over four days.

The slow start to Idaho’s fire season has come in spite of plenty of available fuels that fire managers said early in June were drier than normal.

Forest Service spokesman Mike Ferris says some timely rains and late season snows across the West and in Alaska have cut down on new fires. 

“The weather has certainly been a factor,” Ferris says. “Although it seems like it is dry – and it is dry – we continue to get these surges of moisture.”

Ferris says even a little rain can help cut down on fuels’ ability to ignite.

“It’ll help the lighter, flashier fuels absorb moisture,” he says. “Those are usually what carry a fire and help it to spread.”

The national preparedness level is currently at a 1, showing that most of the nation’s firefighting personnel and equipment are available. Ferris says a ranking of 1 on the five-point scale is rare at this point in the season.

Things may start to change next week in southern Idaho. The National Weather Service shows dry conditions and warming temperatures starting Saturday and highs reaching triple digits by Wednesday.

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