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Western MT wildfire season expected to remain active in September

September Wildfire Outlook.jpg
Posted at 5:02 PM, Aug 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-01 16:00:26-04

MISSOULA — September is considered a transition month when it comes to wildfire season.

Often times, the beginning and middle of the month is still active while at the end of the month we start to see things winds down.

Now, this year Mother Nature has done us no favors, especially in mid to late August as we move into the month of September.

“We need to just take a step back and look at the last two weeks because we had kind of a one-two punch," Northern Rockies Coordination Center (NRCC) Predictive Services Meteorologist Coleen Haskell said.

"There still are some holdovers from the lightning that we received as much as five to seven days ago, and this wind and dry conditions have really woken those things up and brought them to light," she added.

The late-month lightning and wind followed a five-day heatwave in mid-August. Monday’s rainfall was a welcomed sight, however it’s overall impact on fire potential is minimal.

“That has just really taken the edge off temporarily. Our fire danger tendencies are still elevated, and this is just a blip on the radar if you will," Haskell said.

With the forecast calling for another extended period of dry, warm days, with periodical gusty winds, Haskell says we still have a ways to go before we can put this fire season to bed.

“We are going to continue to see the potential for new starts, and also for the existing fires that we have on the landscape growing and spreading.”

There is some good news as even a forecast that calls for warm, dry, and at times windy conditions likely won’t have the intense impact as earlier summer months.

“Our days are getting shorter, and our sun angles are lower, so we don’t have the intensity we had during our last heatwave -- that occurred during the last heatwave," Haskell told MTN News.

The next two or three weeks will go a long way in determining whether the 2020 fire season is one that we’ll remember for years to come or one that will quickly fade to the back of our mind.