The risk of large wildfires through September will be above normal in Northern California, the Great Basin and much of the Northwest.
Early loss of mountain snowpack, increasing drought conditions, anticipated lightning and hot, dry weather should contribute to above-normal risk of large fires through August, National Interagency Fire Center Predictive Services said in its June-September outlook.
NIFC meteorologist Bryan Henry said precipitation over the June 5-7 weekend likely delayed entry into core fire season by 7-10 days in the southern third of Idaho. And much of central and northern Idaho moved into a more normal wildfire outlook thanks to rain and high-elevation snow.
“Historically, when you have some high-elevation snow in early June, the fire season that occurred once summer took hold was normal,” he told Capital Press.
More precipitation forecast at the end of the June 8-13 week from the Interior West to the Canada border should delay fire season slightly at middle to high elevations, except in the traditionally warm Salmon River corridor, the Boise-based Henry said.
NIFC reported the Northwest’s potential for large fires is expected to be above normal this month in southwestern Oregon, and later in the summer in much of the rest of the state and in eastern Washington. Wet, cool weather in middle to late May plumped grass and brush into a more substantial load of fire fuels.
Some of Northern California has received less than half of its normal precipitation since Oct. 1, except in the far northeastern corner of the region. NIFC expects weather to be warmer and drier than normal through September, with some Pacific frontal systems likely to bring lightning followed by dry winds. Fuels are expected to dry in June, increasing risk at low and middle elevations west of the Cascade-Sierra Crest.
Henry said above-normal temperatures and near- or below-average precipitation are expected in much of the West through August.
In the Great Basin, above-normal risk of large fires will expand north into southern Idaho in July and August, NIFC reported. Moderate drought continues over much of the northern two-thirds of Nevada into southwestern Idaho and Utah, with pockets of severe drought. Fuels are in green-up stage in the northern third of the region at lower and middle elevations, with above-average loading seen in parts of Nevada, Utah and southern Idaho.
Lightning sparked the Tea Kettle Fire in grass and sagebrush late June 5 about five miles northwest of Gooding, Idaho. Crews from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management Twin Falls and Boise districts and Sawtooth National Forest contained the 1,152-acre fire early June 7.
BLM Twin Falls District Fire and Aviation spokesman Ryan Berlin said strong winds spread the fire rapidly across fine fuels that were fairly sparse and mostly carried over from last year.
“We haven’t had the moisture we normally do in May, and we’ve not had the green-up we normally do,” he said.
Recent rains helped larger plants including sage and juniper, Berlin said.