BILLINGS — Mother Nature has turned up the thermostat in Montana in recent weeks, which raises the risks of wildfires. What a difference a year makes.
Last August, thick smoke blanketed south-central Montana. Fast forward to this year, and skies are much clearer despite the heat.
We have a wet spring and start of summer to thank.
But after another triple-digit day, the risk of wildfires is rising, which means that could all change later this month.
"So, the actual outlook, I would say we are still calling for an average fire season," says Scott Schuster, fire staff officer for Custer Gallatin National Forest.
He added, "The Custer Gallatin National Forest typically sees about 50 fires a season. Fifteen to 20 fires have been documented so far this year. A lower number thanks to the wetter weather."
Some counties already have some burning restrictions in place, but fires are still allowed in Montana's national forests at this time but are closely being monitored.
"Our folks will look at the fuel moisture content in the large logs on the ground, the sagebrush, and the spruce and fur trees and monitor that," says Schuster.
Overall, the fuels are better this year. We are looking at a more typical drying season this year, but that doesn't mean we are in the clear.
"What I would say is this year even though there is still a green tinge to the grass which normally would indicate not a lot of potential. The dead fuels which are logs and branches on the ground are pretty dry," Schuster said.