Posted: May 23, 2013 11:49 AM by Matt Elwell
Updated: May 23, 2013 2:19 PM
BOZEMAN - A staggering statistic shows that since 1999 over $1.1 billion has been spent battling wildfires in Montana. That averages out to nearly $80 million a year with the most expensive year coming in 2003 with total bill of $293 million.
The question is - will this year's fire season sizzle or fizzle?
Since March, dry and warm weather in southwest Montana has dropped snowpack from 90 percent to about 65 percent of average, but the snowpack is only part of the equation.
According to Marianne Baumberger of the Gallatin National Forest, the early season looks alright.
"There is still snow in the high country, and so higher up, we are starting to green up, and so it is looking good right now," she said.
The problem is that conditions seem to change very quickly. One day it is cool and damp and the next day is windy and hot, which is why fire season can be so dangerous in Montana.
The climate and topography is perfect for rapidly changing weather patterns. By mid-summer a lot will change. The current forecast looks for June and July to trend warmer than average. If you couple that with drier than average conditions forecasted for that same time frame, extreme southwest Montana is on track to have a very active fire season come July and August.
Baumberger advises that you take precautions now by maintaining a green space around your house and thinning your trees. She says that you need to maintain any area that a spark could get in and fester and eventually start a fire in your home.
You can follow this link to find a list of plants that are fire-resistant and are adapted to the Montana climate. That is an easy way that you can protect your property.