Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Fire season outlook for Washington

The Wenatchee World web site has an interesting story about the outlook for fire activity in north central Washington state this year.
Officials say other than a late start to the season, there are no strong indicators for predicting this year's season.

"We're always going to have a fire season. And it's always going to depend on how receptive (fuels) are to ignition, and then, do we get ignition," said Bobbie Scopa, fire management officer for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests.

Scopa said the season will partly depend on June rains, although lots of rain can mean high grasses, which dry out quickly in hot weather and allow for a fast-spreading fire. Mostly, she said, it will depend on the number of fires started by lightning storms, escaped campfires or vehicles and equipment without spark arresters.

Scopa said snowpack may help determine when the fire season will start but isn't always an indicator of the severity of the season. She pointed to 2005, one of the driest winters on record, when North Central Washington saw little fire activity. That was followed by 2006, when a winter with heavy snowpack melted into a summer with the 175,000-acre Tripod Fire — the largest wildfire in the region's history.

"It's pretty tough to make too big a prediction," she said.
However, Rick Ochoa, a meteorologist working at NICC in Boise, said:
"...the cooler spring weather and heavy snowpack do mean that overall there's a slimmer chance that the Northwest will have numerous large fires."
Ochoa further goes out on a limb to predict:
"...the Northwest will see 473 fires, burning 17,873 acres by the end of June. That's compared with an average for June 30 of 605 fires burning 24,508 acres."
Holy crap! I wonder where he pulled those numbers out of? I have never seen a prediction like that. Personally, I like the statements attributed to FMO Bobbie Scopa a lot better.

As I have said in other posts, I am convinced that the severity of the fire season is mostly determined by the weather during the fire season, and less so by the amount of precipitation during the winter.

More information is at the Wenachee World web site.

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