Predictions from Federal Experts forWildfire Season 2003


BOISE, Idaho (AP) — 11 March 2003

The 2003 wildfire season will not be as severe as last year, but much of the West and upper Midwest will still see an above-normal fire year, according to predictions from federal experts. The wildland fire outlook by the National Interagency Fire Center follows a
conference of scientists late last month. Fire forecasters say years of drought in the West coupled with little snow and early snowmelts could result in an extended fire season. They also said drought-stressed or insect-damaged vegetation will increase the potential
for large, destructive wildfires.

“Nationally, it won’t be as severe as 2002. But it still will be more severe than average,” said Rick Ochoa, national fire weather program manager. “As a whole, the Great Lakes area and the Northwest may have a more significant fire season than the Southwest.”

Wildfires last year burned nearly 7.2 million acres while more than 50 percent of the country suffered extreme to moderate drought during the summer months. In Prescott, Ariz., about 370 firefighters from across the country began a week’s training Tuesday at Arizona’s first fire academy for those who will battle this year’s wildfires.

The Arizona training will include digging fire lines, using fire-resistant foam and working with airplane crews. According to the wildfire outlook released Friday: Dead timber will increase fire potential at the higher elevations in Utah, western Wyoming, and central Idaho.

Eastern Oregon, northern Idaho, Montana, northern and eastern Wyoming, and southern Alaska will be among the western regions most susceptible to wildfires. Other areas of concern are southern California, southern Utah, and central-northwestern Arizona.

In the Midwest, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan are also more likely to have a worse than normal fire season, as is northern Maine in the East.


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