Posted: Jul 4, 2012 8:46 AM by Russ Thomas - StormTracker Weather
Updated: Jul 4, 2012 8:48 AM
MISSOULA- Wildfires have taken front and center stage in Montana east of the Continental Divide over the last week, but so far Western Montana has been quiet in comparison. The question now being asked is how long we'll stay free of wildfires.
The wildfire outlook from Northern Rockies Coordination Center Meteorologist Mike Kreyenhagen is for a long and active fire season in the Treasure State.
"We're going to have large fires, we'll probably have large project fires where we're going to need outside resources to help. We're going to need air tankers, we're going to need all of the things that being part of the national program will provide," Kreyenhagen explained.
Many areas east of the Divide have already seen their fair share of fire activity. This was forecasted by the NRCC earlier this year due to dry conditions and standing fuels and Kreyenhagen says it took just the right ingredients to stir the pot.
"We'd identified that we were probably going to have trouble on the east side. We didn't anticipate that we were going to have such an extreme weather event. Extreme weather breeds extreme fire behavior, and that's exactly what we saw."
Western Montana has fared much better so far as wetter and cooler conditions have held fire starts down. While Kreyenhagen says that while the window is closing, we still have a little time before things really get going...
"We've still got two weeks to go before we even approach what we call critical fuel values, critical energy release component values. We're in good shape west of the divide," Kreyenhagen stated.
He added that the potential for dry lightning combined with very hot temperatures expected by the weekend through early next week could bring about the beginning of a season that could bring more smoke in the valleys than we've seen in several years.
Kreyenhagen added this fire season looks to be closer to the norm in Western Montana which marks a change from the quiet fire seasons we've had over the last three years.