Dry winter: doesn't guarantee a bad wildfire season




Posted on February 19, 2014 at 9:20 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 20 at 8:00 AM

SPOKANE, Wash.--The latest snow pack totals in mid February show Eastern Washington mountains were getting back to normal after a very dry start to the winter. Firefighters often warn residents that it will be a bad wildfire season when there is a dry winter.

KREM 2 News 2 on Your Side looked into those claims and found history does not back it up.

Records show no matter how much rain and snow there is on the ground in the winter and spring, anything could happen during the fire season.

A dry winter creates dry mountain brush which is the perfect fuel for a massive wildfire. KREM 2 News proved with numbers that just because the ground is dry, it does not mean wild fires are certain to come.

Some of the driest winters since 1970 were followed by some crazy wildfire seasons in Spokane where thousands of acres burned. There were also some big summer blazes following wet winters.

One of the wettest starts to Eastern Washington winters was in 2006 followed by the number one wildfire season since 1970. That season resulted in more than 300,000 acres burned.

The National Fire Outlook is calling for above normal fire danger in the 2014 fire season only if the dry start to the 2013 winter is paired with high winds in the summer.
Most large fire seasons are the result of a combination of lightning, dry fuels and high winds.
If there is nothing to start the fire, then even the driest winter could turn out to be another quiet wildfire season for the books.