GREAT FALLS — Unlike hurricane season for the U.S., the wildfire season in Montana does not have an official start or end date. Fires are a year-round threat driven by weather and dry fuels. However, the threat will diminish some with cooler temperatures and snowfall.
Christian Cassell, the lead meteorologist and head of the wildfire program at the National Weather Service in Great Falls, explains there is often not a single event leading to the end of the season.
"Sometimes you don't get a season ending event, so that's the way it's happening along the Rocky Mountain Front. With the Crown Mountain, the Elk Creek and the Falls Creek fires, they are probably just going to go until the snow comes and sticks."
The 2021 wildfire season has been abnormal from the start. The state began with already unusually dry brush in late spring and summer. This led to the ignition of the Deep Creek Canyon Fire in the Townsend area on June 13th, which was an extremely anomalous event for the state.
Cassell said, "That was kind of a precursor to saying, yeah, we're going into something that's truly a unique type of year."
Conditions remained dry throughout June and July but August brought above normal precipitation and a sort of break in the fire season.
We saw little to no precipitation in many areas throughout September and October, leading to a second fire season of sorts within the wildfire season as a whole.
Until we see a large scale precipitation event, it is important to remain vigilant and follow local fire guidelines as there is still a conducive environment for wildfire ignition and spread.
The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration released their winter outlook Thursday morning.
The outlook projects wetter than normal conditions over much of Montana for the 2021-2022 winter season. This comes as great news for a state afflicted with extreme drought and a record-breaking wildfire season.