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Fire danger looks below average this year

Lolo Creek Complex blows up, August 2013- Dennis Bragg photo(MISSOULA)- In 2012 it was Eastern Montana that faced the worst fires, as massive blazes burned across wide stretches of open and forested lands. 

Last year it was Western Montana's turn, as a series of intense, hot fires began burning in mid-July and kept burning through August, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage and firefighting expense. 

But at this point at least, it appears 2014 could see a much different scenario across the Treasure State. 

The annual report on the wildfire threat in the West, issued by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise says the Northern Rockies will likely be the one place in the U.S. to see a "below average" risk of wildfire from May through August. 

And it really comes down to the snowpack and wet weather we've had since the first of February. While much of the winter had been fairly mild through January, the swing to intense storms, coupled with cool and showery weather into the spring is going to delay the start of the fire season. 

The fire forecasters are saying while some of the trees and brush are finally starting to "green up" now, the curing and drying of field is expected to be delayed. In fact, they say there's the possibility fuels won't become critically dry or fully cured in most areas of Western and Eastern Montana, Northern Wyoming and Northern Idaho until August. While that doesn't eliminate the risk of wildfire, those conditions could at least shorten our fire season for the first time since 2011. 

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