The U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Region has published a review of 2012. A couple of pages are devoted to fire, in which they compare last year to the infamous fires of 1910. Here is the text:
“Fire officials compare the 2012 fire season to the Great Fires of 1910, known across much of Idaho and Montana as the worst fire season on record. The Northern Rockies Coordination Center reports more than 1.1 million acres burned in Montana. The forests east of the Continental Divide were hardest hit with record high temperatures starting in June with little rainfall. Fires started early in the summer due to worsening drought conditions.
Five major fires on the Custer and Gallatin National Forests consumed morethan 341,221 acres; 164,984 acres on national forest system lands. Numerous other fires ignited on state, private, BLM and BIA lands across the state. Of the 62 total fires on the Gallatin National Forest, 29 of them were lightning caused and 33 human caused. On the Custer National Forest, five fires were human caused and 36 lightning caused. Firefighters across the state fought fires well into September. The Ashland Ranger District on the Custer National Forest managed one of Montana’s largest fires. The 249,549 acre Ash Creek Fire started on June 25, followed by the 62,111 acre Taylor Creek Fire, which burned BLM and private lands, on July 3.
Late into August, following a significant lightning storm, several smaller fires started on the Gallatin National Forest. On August 28, the Millie Fire started and burned 10,515 acres throughout September and October. Shortly after the Millie Fire was declared out on November 9, the human-caused Pine Creek Fire ignited and burned 8,572 acres before season-ending rains put it out.
Burn Area Emergency Response (BAER) Teams worked throughout the fall and winter on rehabilitation efforts following the fires on both forests. Emergency response activities include hazard tree removal of dangerous snags along roadside corridors and campground facilities, slope stabilization efforts, grass seeding, infrastructure repair, and culvert replacement. With large fires, rainwater and soil sediment runoff is a major concern in regards to engineering infrastructures, roads, drainage culverts, and water flow across the landscape.
With significantly less vegetative cover, thunderstorms producing a large amount of storm water runoff have a greater impact and can wash away necessary nutrients. Many culvert replacements are scheduled for spring and summer 2013 in anticipation of significant runoff. An additional concern into the 2013 field season is the sustained emphasis on the eradication of noxious weeds. A number of agencies will continue to work together to lessen the impact of noxious weed infestations and infrastructure damages such as fencing within the agricultural community from the Ash and Taylor Creek Fires.”