WeatherWeather Wise


Weather Wise: 2024 Montana Fire Season Begins

Posted at 4:42 PM, Jul 01, 2024

Quietly, Montana's wildfire season is underway with more than 6,000 total acres burned already this year. It's unlikely this coming year will be like the last several fire seasons.

Several recent wildfires like the Running Wolf Fire in the Little Belt Mountains are a sign wildfire season is here. Conditions leading into this wildfire season are less than ideal. Mountain snowpack was below normal this past winter, even though snowpack increased late in the season.

The month of June was generally drier and warmer than normal, although some areas have had above-average precipitation most recently. June is a critical month for precipitation, and fire season can either begin at a blistering pace or be slowed based on rain this time of year. Approximately 35% of the state is in moderate drought, and a small 4.6% is facing severe drought. more than half of the state would be considered abnormally dry.

The Climate Prediction Center that forecasts seasonal outlooks is indicating the period of July, August and September will be drier than normal and most likely warmer than normal.

Indicators are pointing to the potential for a more active wildfire season, certainly than the last few years. Montana averages roughly 470,000 acres burned per year.

If you add up the acreage burned from the last three summers, the sum does not equal one average year. Montana has been fortunate to have three consecutive below-average fire seasons. However, current conditions and expected hot and dry weather will almost certainly lead to increased fire activity.

I expect Montana to have close to an average wildfire season, and a sure increase over the last few years. More wildfires should occur later in the season through August into September.

Please do what you can to help prevent wildfires.