Weather Patterns Add Difficulty to Predicting Northwest Wildfire Season

Apr 27, 2012

Some hard-to-read global weather patterns are making this year’s fire season difficult to forecast. That’s according to experts at federal agencies that track wildfires. But as best they can tell, the Northwest is in for a milder season than other fire-prone parts of the country.

The leaders of the nation’s forest, land and emergency management agencies told reporters on a conference call Thursday they’ve started positioning engines, air tankers and helicopters at strategic locations.

Tom Vilsack is the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees 750 million acres of forestland.

“Anything can happen in fire season," he says. "The key here is for us to be in a position to be able to respond quickly and appropriately to the risk so that we can contain as many of these fires as possible."

The areas at highest risk are the Southwest, Southern California, the Western flank of the Rockies and the Upper Midwest.

Forecasters say in the Northwest, fire danger is unlikely to rise until late June, and even then they don’t expect a high risk in most of the region. One exception is southwest Idaho, along the Nevada border -- that stretch is considered an area of concern for wildfires.