NAMPA, Idaho (AP) Southwestern Idaho fire crews have already had to battle several blazes on grass and farm lands, another sign that 2005 could be a catastrophic fire season throughout the Northwest.
Research by federal agencies and Oregon State University predicts that the summer forest fire threat is among the most dangerous in decades.
Ronald Neilson, a bioclimatologist with the U.S. Forest Service and professor of botany at Oregon State, said Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Northern California, Montana and Wyoming will face forest and rangeland fires that could be unusually severe and generally the worst of any area in the country.
“The drought severity the Northwestern states are now experiencing will only get worse in coming months,” he said, adding that conditions could reach levels that were generally seen during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
Recent reports by the Natural Resource Conservation Service in Idaho indicate that the entire state is struggling with drought.
“We need a great deal of precipitation to replenish the depleted snowpacks,” says Ron Abramavich, NRCS water supply specialist. “Unfortunately, weather models have forecast warmer and drier conditions than average.”
On the Idaho Panhandle, snowpacks range from 35-60 percent of average. January precipitation was only 59 percent of average above the Clearwater River, and precipitation in the Salmon River area was only 46 percent of average.
Computer models released by Oregon State show that Canyon and Ada counties, the state’s most populous counties, are surrounded by areas considered to be the highest risk of wildfires in the U.S.
And forecasters advise that recent light rainfall around the Treasure Valley, which encompasses the region surrounding Boise, the state capital, didn’t make a dent in the severely dry conditions.
The valley remains more than 2.5 inches below normal precipitation for this time of year.