By Ben Olson
The Sandpoint Ranger District would like to emphasize that all fireworks are prohibited in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest year-round.
“There are campfires allowed” said Capt. Eric Morgan with the Sandpoint Ranger District. “No closures are in effect right now.”
Morgan said that campfires are allowed in designated sites as well as primitive sites: “The important thing is to clear out any debris or flammable fuel that’s around the campfire area where an ember can transition and ignite something that will continue into the thicker forest.”
Thanks to June precipitation averages that bounced back from last year’s low, the outlook for fire season remains optimistic.
“It looks pretty good,” said Morgan. “We’re sitting at ‘moderate’ now … fuel moistures are high, there is plenty of rain in the high country. We’ll have a cold front moving in the first week of July after these 90 degree days.”
According to the Western Regional Climate Center, Sandpoint’s June rainfall total is 2.25 inches for a 100-year average. Last year’s total came in at a mere 0.35 inches—a scant 15 percent of the norm. While this June’s rainfall total came in around 0.58 inches, the extra precipitation and lower temperatures have kept the forests lush.
According to meteorologist Randy Mann, it wasn’t so much the precipitation totals that helped this year, but how we received it.
“In 2015, all of the moisture came in the first few days, then we didn’t get anything after that,” said Mann. “This month, it was a little more spread out.”
Mann said this summer’s weather will be a grab bag, but will mostly resemble a “normal” summer in the Northwest: “We’ll have plenty of warm days, but there will be days with below normal readings,” he said.
Mann also pointed out that though wildfire severity is downgraded from last year, it’s still not out of the question: “Although I expect a summer season that will not likely have the long periods of extreme heat and dryness, that doesn’t mean we won’t see our share of wildfires.”
One thing to look forward to: “Assuming that sea-surface temperatures continue to cool down, the upcoming winter of 2016-17 should be snowier than normal, which is great news for area ski and snowboarders,” said Mann.
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