Issued early in May by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), the summer wildfire outlook shows increased wildfire potential in the southwestern U.S., Florida and southern Georgia where conditions remain very dry. Yesterday the national planning level was raised to two (2).
Incidents such as the West Mims Fire in Georgia, which has burned 235 square miles, or the 47,000-acre Saw Mill Fire in Arizona, have contributed to twice the average number of acres burned, more than two million acres so far this year. However, NIFC predicts that the western wildfire season may start later due to abundant winter snowpack and late spring precipitation.
Meanwhile in Minnesota
As of May 16, 2017 Minnesota Incident Command System (MNICS) agencies report 461 wildfires for 2,263 total acres burned. That is 51 percent fewer wildfires than at this time last year. With less suppression activity, agencies have conducted 434 prescribed fires for 68,091 acres nearly doubling prescribed fires done by this time last year.
With scant precipitation, wildfire danger remains high in the northwest and north central portions of the state. A 257-acre wildfire in Kittson County on Mother’s Day required five aircraft, two engines, three water tenders and 25 personnel from multiple agencies and departments to put out the fire.
Because the incident command system (ICS) model expands and contracts, and spring wildfire season is winding down in most of Minnesota, aircraft and helicopters are being released from Grand Marais, Princeton, Brainerd, Hill City and Hinckley. As many as 25 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters were positioned around the state during peak 2017 spring fire season.
Gearing up for summer
As Minnesota spring wildfire season ramps down, MNICS crews are gearing for the western wildfire season. Four Type-2 initial attack crews will attend a refresher on May 30 and then begin weekly rotation on June 12. The Minnesota Interagency Fire Center received 52 crew member applications in 2017.