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Early season wildfire outlook for Western Montana

NRCC Fire Outlook
Posted at 5:11 PM, Mar 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-01 19:43:39-05

MISSOULA — It is the first day of Meteorological Spring -- which runs from March 1 through May 31 -- and that means the release of the Northern Rockies Coordination Center’s (NRCC) Early Season Fire Outlook.

NRCC Predictive Services Meteorologist Coleen Haskell says the spring could be busy east of the divide thanks to drier-than-normal and windy conditions.

For western Montana, our snowy, cold February will likely keep the spring fire season quiet.

Haskell tells us the likely transition from La Nina to neutral conditions this spring makes it harder to predict fire behavior this summer.

However, the combination of an expected drier and warmer than normal July and August, along with the placement of monsoonal moisture might put western Montana at a higher risk for a smoky summer.

"With the anticipation this year that the monsoon is expected to be more typical than we’ve seen the last couple of years, that means we’ll have the usual number of lightning strikes and some smoke in the air,” Haskell explained.

Haskell says the forecast will be updated each month through the spring and we’ll have a better idea of how our fire season will pan out later in the spring.