'Below normal' fire potential predicted for Idaho mountains

Rain and snow spell 'below normal' fire year

BOISE - As we head into the summer months officials with the National interagency Center (NIFC) are taking a look at fire potential forecasts for May through August.

When it comes to this upcoming fire season, for the first time in a long time areas like the Boise and Payette National forests have a below normal fire potential.

"In this case the evidence in the mountains is pretty substantial that the season is going to be pretty condensed up there," said Bryan Henry, an assistant National Fire Weather Program manager with Predictive Services.

When you take a look up in the mountains, you'll still see plenty of snow. Henry says the snowpack is 160 percent of normal right now. 

"The most important thing about snowpack is not how much snow is up there, it's how fast is it melting?" said Henry.

This is good news for higher elevations like the area scorched by the Pioneer Fire last summer, but not so much for the lower elevations. All the green you see is nice now, but in a couple of months it could be a different story.

"You can see we're having a tremendous green up this year and the grass crop is getting very dense out there," Henry said. "At some point that's going to dry and cure, usually in July."

Henry says this raises the potential for large fire activity in the lower elevations.

So what makes this year's fire season different than the last?

"Precipitation amounts were right around normal heading into the fire season in both lower and higher elevations," Henry said. "This year we're high in both."

Another reason: Henry says long-range data points to a wet second half of the month of May, and more rain in August.

"It also points towards maybe a summer where the temperatures are closer to normal as opposed to being much warmer like we've gotten used to out here," said Henry.

Henry says typically, they don't like to say they are expecting a below normal fire potential because that could eventually change, but with all the snow still in the mountains he says they can make that prediction with confidence. 

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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