Heading into the long Fourth of July holiday, fire managers across the West are keeping their fingers crossed that folks are careful when they head into the national parks, national forests, and other public lands. The landscape is, as they say, tinder dry, due to unseasonably dry and hot conditions.
A friend who works for the U.S. Forest Service tells me the long-range outlook for the Intermountain Region (ie, the Rockies), calls for temperatures 4-8 degrees above normal and precipitation in the range of 0-25 percent of normal. That's definitely not good.
To the best of my knowledge, outside of a small fire in Alaska's Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, there are no out-of-control fires actively burning within the national park system. However, as dry as it is out here in the West, that situation could change rapidly.
For instance, there currently is a fire burning on the Gallatin National Forest in Montana just a few miles outside West Yellowstone, the western gateway to Yellowstone. Last word had that fire covering 3,660 acres and 60 percent contained. Hopefully things will continue to improve and there will be no dry afternoon thunderstorms with lots of gusting winds and lightning but no significant moisture. That's the type of storm that could blow a seemingly small fire out of control.
In California, there are a growing number of fire restrictions in the parks, and rangers are hoping for the best.
Enjoy the parks this coming holiday, but leave the fireworks to the professionals.