MISSOULA – A cooler summer may be our only break now as we head into the home stretch of the 2018 fire season with forecasters still expecting "above normal" fire danger in the Northern Rockies.
Forecasters have been predicting all year long that a late fire season would be seen in the Northern Rockies and so far that scenario is falling into place as predicted weeks ago.
The latest report from the National Interagency Fire Center has just been released and is forecasting a continued trend to a late fire season, especially in Western Montana and Northern Idaho.
Following a wet spring, with the long, cool spell continuing all the way through June, there’s been two significant factors. One has been the trend without the usual hot spells into the upper 90s and even over 100 degrees. In fact, this week is the first time we’ve seen temps that high.
That cool weather has been helpful. But on the opposite side is the significant dry spell through July. The Center says rainfall in Northern Idaho and Northwest Montana was only about 25-percent of normal in July, with some locations having not seen any measurable rain for a month.
Couple that with a few passing lightning storms, and you’ve got the scenario we’re seeing this week, with dozens of small fire starts. Fortunately, the only sizable fire, the Reynolds Lake Fire southwest of Darby was contained at just over a thousand acres after an aggressive attack.
The expected transition to a weak El Nino weather pattern means that the dry weather is expected to lead to a "seasonably drier and warmer than average" pattern through August. In past years, that’s when we tend to see larger fires lasting well in September.