With the Charlotte fire devastating homes in Pocatello, nearly a month ago and news of Tuesday's fire in the Swan Valley area threatening others, for some it may seem that the 2012 fire season may be one headed for the record books.
“We are ahead as far as the fire season; it started a little early on us,” said Lynn Ballard, Fire Information Officer with the United States Forest Service. “The challenge that we have is our normal fire season is starting right now. This is the period of time when we'd normally start seeing our fires.”
According to statistics from the Eastern Idaho Interagency Fire Center, this year has seen 58 fires start in east Idaho. Compared to years past at this date, 8 fires started last year with a season total of 91. In 2010, 48 fires had started with the season ending with 144 and in 2009, 32 had ignited with a total of 106 for the season.
“Right now, we've already burnt more acres than those three years,” Ballard said.
While the numbers point to an increase in fire activity this year, Ballard does caution that final numbers will be determined by what the weather brings.
“Our lower elevations right now are fairly critical. Our upper elevations in the timber, our large fuel, and the trees are drier than normal,” said Ballard. “But, we still have a lot of green, the grass and the shrubs are still green and that's something you need to carry a fire.”
One method the forest service uses to prevent wildfire is fire restrictions and Ballard says they may be put in place in the future.
“Chances are if it continues to stay hot and dry like this we could see fire restrictions,” Ballard said. “That's a challenge for the public that want to go out and recreate.”
Ballard says fire season typically runs until around the beginning of October.
For more information on east Idaho fires over the last 30 years you can visit the Eastern Idaho Interagency Fire Center’s website