Wildfire potential, May through August

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On May 1 the Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for May through August, 2016. The data represents the cumulative forecasts of the ten Geographic Area Predictive Services Units and the National Predictive Services Unit.

If their forecast is correct, the Northwest and Rocky Mountain areas will avoid unusually high wildfire activity while Hawaii and some locations in the Southwest, California, Nevada and southern Idaho could be busy in June, July, and August.

UPDATE May 2, 2016. NIFC took the unusual step of producing a video version of the outlook. It was released today.

Here are the highlights of the written report issued May 1. Following that are maps for June through August.


“Conditions in the mid-Atlantic and Appalachian region were dry enough through April to see increased fire activity at the end of the month. Greenup and increases in precipitation will decrease much potential through May.

“Heavy fine fuel loadings are expected across the Southwest and Great Basin, and lower elevation areas of southern and central California. This will likely increase fire activity in these areas throughout fire season especially when associated with dry and windy periods.  Fire activity will begin in May and June across the Southwest and transition northward as usual throughout the June and July.

“Warm April conditions depleted some of the mountain snowpack. Remaining snowpack should continue to melt off but remain long enough for a normal to slightly delayed onset of higher elevation fire activity. Nearly all higher elevation timbered areas are expected to see normal fire activity throughout the Outlook period.

“Poor seasonal snowpack and early snowmelt in South Central Alaska will likely to lead to above normal conditions in May, especially in the populated corridors.

“Significant moisture across the Central U.S. is expected to produce below normal significant fire potential, especially coupled with green-up occurring throughout this area.

“Most other areas of the U.S. are expected to see normal significant fire potential throughout the summer fire season. It is important to note that normal fire activity still represents a number of significant fires occurring and acres burned.”



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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

3 thoughts on “Wildfire potential, May through August”

  1. Just from what I’ve seen very early here, the Northwest is going be very active again. We’re already having good sized brush fires. Given, different parts of the region may have different levels, but I expect another bad year.

    1. No real snow pack in NE Oregon now moisture is up from last year.
      Not good…

      1. Exactly. I think the NIFC is underestimating the potential here. Hopefully people don’t get fooled into thinking its going to be an easy summer.


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