Recent snow and cold signifies the end of wildfire season here in Montana.
That being said, wildfire is possible any time of year here as the Denton and Gibson Flats Fires in December of 2021 are sobering reminders. But this year's fire season in Montana was quiet with a below-normal number of fires and total acres burned.
In 2023, Montana had 1,604 fires burn a total of 117,553 acres. The 10-year average is 2,015 fires burning 341,124 acres. It's no coincidence the greatest fire activity was where the state's worst drought conditions have been, in northwest Montana.
While it was a down year across Montana, the United States as a whole had its quietest wildfire season in 25 years. The average is 65,000 fires and 7.5 million acres. Across the country, 50,015 fires burned just over 2.5 million acres. The last time this few acres burned was in 1998. The year prior, one of the strongest El Ninos developed which may have contributed to a very quiet wildfire season across the country that summer. A very strong El Nino has developed again.
Of course, Canada had its worst wildfire season on record with more than 45 million acres burned. The tremendous disparity could be attributed to last winter's La Nina that delivered unprecedented snow to parts of the western United States, and ultimately a muted fire season here at home. That same storm track stayed well south of Canada, denying that part of North America moisture.