Thursday, August 2, 2007

Forest Fires

I'm not sure it's worth being proud of, but Montana now has the highest-priority fire in the country, the Meriwether fire near Helena. We have the next three priorities, too. The fire season isn't supposed to start until August, but it started in mid-July this year and has been going strong since then; we have had smoke in the valley for weeks (but luckily no fires nearby). For a thorough listing of the state's fires, see Inciweb; click on any fire for more details and maps. The line of fires doesn't stop at the state border, and Idaho has been hit pretty hard, too; for a map of large fires natiowide, see this Forest Service site.

Montana is in its 8th year of drought (so long that it isn't news anymore), leaving the trees and ground pretty dry. On top of that, a wet spring was followed by a dry, hot summer, producing lots of grass and vegetation nicely seasoned for fires. I suspect that we have many more smoky days ahead of us.

For a great chart of historical precipitation, see this New York Times graphic from 2002; now if they would just bring it up to date so we can see how this drought compares to the Dust Bowl.

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