Too Much Moisture May Exacerbate Fire Danger in Montana
Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - After a very long, cold, and snowy winter and what is expected to be a cool, wet spring, the fire prevention specialist with the Missoula District of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation says all that moisture may actually make fire danger worse.
KGVO News spoke to Kristen Mortenson, Southwest Land Office Fire Prevention Specialist with the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation about what the cool, wet weather might lead to this summer.
Wet Weather Now May Lead to Fire Danger Later
“A wet winter obviously brings lots of moisture, which is wonderful and badly needed,” began Mortenson. “A wet spring also brings moisture that is needed and that helps lots of our grass to grow high and green, but if we have that spigot turned off and we have a dry, late spring or really dry summer then we have a lot of vegetation that the wet spring grew and that the dry atmosphere will dry it out and we will have a lot of fuel for wildfire.”
Mortenson said it’s dangerous to assume anything when it comes to a potential fire season.
“We could continue to have this wet pattern, and as long as it sustains through the summer and we get periods of precipitation, then we might not have a bad fire season,” she said. “However, you just never know because we're dealing with Mother Nature.”
There's over 100 years of Downed Timber in the Western Montana Mountains
Mortenson reminded KGVO that over 100 years of accumulated fuel litters the forest floor that might lead to another severe fire season.
“We do have a huge accumulation of fuels from 100 years of suppressing fires and different forest management practices, and so there is a lot of fuel out there and the drought just made a lot of that drier,” she said. “This moisture can only help at least by making some of that fuel not so dry, but we still have a lot of dead and downed fuel that will dry out the minute the rains stop.”
DNRC Officials taking a 'Wait and See' Approach on Upcoming Fire Danger
Mortenson said she and her staff at the DNRC are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach to fire conditions for the summer and fall seasons.
“You know, we could have 90-degree temperatures in a couple of weeks and be talking about things drying out fast,” she said. “Or we can have another snowstorm and who knows? However, I would say as soon as the snow is off the ground, we start to see things dry out a little bit, and we start to see some smoke in the air, and that's when our season starts rolling.”
Click here for more details about the DNRC for western Montana.