Weather predictions mean Wyoming fire season may remain light

2014-07-21T09:30:00Z Weather predictions mean Wyoming fire season may remain lightBy CHRISTINE PETERSON Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette

Wyoming’s wildfire season this year has not yet turned into much. As of mid-July, the state has experienced only a handful of small fires. Few have grown larger than initial attacks, said state forester Bill Crapser.

The recent Owen Fire in the Medicine Bow National Forest reached 500 acres, making it the largest blaze so far this summer. In contrast, by mid-July 2012, dozens of fires had ripped across the Cowboy State, some as large as 100,000 acres.

This summer has been abnormally calm, Crapser said, and weather forecasts predict more cool air and moisture until fall.

“Traditional fire season would be starting right about now and running through August,” Crapser said. “I think for this point, I’m looking at a fairly light fire season.”

Statewide, Wyoming’s weather has varied by region. Most areas east of Yellowstone National Park down to Laramie are at or above normal precipitation.

Much of the southwest corner, however, is a little below normal, said Chris Jones, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Riverton.

Next week could be hot and dry, but by early August the state will likely experience more cool, wet weather, he said.

“We’re getting a northwesterly flow, bringing Canadian air into the U.S. rather than the dry desert air out of the Southwest,” Jones said.

It’s those systems out of the country’s Southwest that bring warm winds, creating ideal fire conditions, Jones said.

Fire seasons do sometimes run in cycles over the years, Crapser said.

In 2006, the state experienced large fires, then dwindled down to very little in 2008 and 2009. The fire danger started to ramp back up in 2010, and 2012 was one of the worst fire seasons on record, he said.

“I wish it was as simple as saying every six years,” he said. “But it’s erratic enough you can’t predict it.”

Although not fighting wildfires locally, most crews in Wyoming are working in the state’s forests thinning trees or doing projects in campgrounds or they’re helping in other states with bigger fires.

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