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Weather Wise: End of fire season may be near

State watching for summer of "active fire" weather in Montana
Posted at 9:05 AM, Sep 20, 2022

Wildfires have really been hosed down by storms recently with the end of the fire season much closer than it was just a few weeks ago.

The end is near, but Montana is not across the finish line just yet. So far this year, nearly 120,000 acres have burned across the state. To put that into perspective, last year at this time nearly 940,000 acres had burned.

There have been a total of 1,850 fires with 774 of them caused by humans, 449 started naturally, and 345 have an undetermined cause. The largest fire of the year was the Elmo Fire west of Polson which burned 21, 349 acres. The Trail Ridge Fire east of Lost Trail Pass is the second largest at over 17,000 acres burned. The Eagle Creek Fire in the Bear Paw Mountains was the 4th largest at 7,225 acres. Of course, just across the border near Salmon, Idaho is the Moose Fire which just eclipsed 130,000 acres, more than all of the fires combined in Montana this year.

After a flurry of activity late in august and the beginning of September resulting in the largest fires and the most smoke, conditions have dramatically increased over the last 10 to 14 days as a series of cooler, wet storms have moved through most of the state.

In 2017, a record-breaking fire season that saw 1.2 million acres burned had an abrupt end with a record-breaking snowstorm that dropped feet of snow on the Alice Creek, Rice Ridge and Strawberry fires.

More rain and cool temperatures will continue this year's more gradual end to fire season. But do remember that Montana can almost always face conditions that could lead to fire growth and this year is not snuffed out completely just yet.