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Potential for big West Coast wildfires will be higher than average this year

by Bill Gabbert, Wildfire Today |

The Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise issued its Wildland Fire Potential Outlook June 1, covering the period of June through September. The data represents the cumulative forecasts of the 10 Geographic Area Predictive Services Units and the National Predictive Services Unit.

If NIFC’s analysis is correct, the areas with above-normal wildfire potential on the western sides of Washington, Oregon, and California will expand during the four-month period until they cover most of the forested lands in California as well as northern Washington and Idaho. Forecasters predict portions of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas will have enhanced potential in June and July.

The areas affected by the multi-year drought in the West have greatly decreased to the point where there are no locations with extreme or exceptional drought. Northwestern Oregon is classified as “severe drought” and this could be an area to watch over the summer months.

From the NIFC:

“... As June progresses, the fine fuels will begin to cure and dry from south to north across the West. Lingering high elevation snowpack should be lost. Wildfire activity should begin to increase by late month as peak of the fire season begins to arrive as July and August approach. As is the case with the lower elevation fuels, the high-elevation heavy fuels will also experience a delayed entry into the season except along the Canadian Border in Washington State where overall dryness will lead to an average start with a potential for above normal activity. Alaska will reach its peak in June and begin to wind down in July.

“Looking ahead to August and September the fire potential and resulting activity should increase to Normal in most areas except along the West Coast where above-normal significant large-fire potential is expected due to fuel loading and preexisting dry conditions. A traditional winding down of the Western fire season is expected in mid-September as fall moisture begins to arrive ..."