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Fire danger moderate despite rain: Next month essential to fire season

Posted at 11:21 AM, Jul 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-19 12:27:48-04

With dewpoints dropping and temperatures rising, the next month is essential to our fire season.

“With less rain, we still have the lightning. Give us a couple of weeks, we can start to dry out and get those small lightning starts. With all the rain we’ve had we’re at a high end of moderate,” said Ashley Sites, acting deputy forest staff officer of the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

Typically, this time of year our fire danger is pretty high. This isn’t the case this year; there’s still plenty of green on the trees in Custer Gallatin — but this is quickly changing.

“Some of the forest fuels are starting to dry, but with these continued shots of rain, it’s keeping us from getting into that high fire danger where we typically are at this time of year,” Sites said.

The Forest Service uses a number of weather observations from a network of stations to come up with a fire condition forecast.

“Kind of like a weather model, but it’s a fire danger rating model that gives us a number and we kind of boil that down to several other factors, like whether we’re getting lightning or not, whether we’re seeing human-caused fires,” Sites said.

A below-average fire season in southwest Montana doesn’t mean we’ll see less smoke.

“We routinely get smoke from Canada and even California, depending on what kind of winds we’re seeing in the upper atmosphere,” Sites added.