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Cold, wet winter likely to push back Northwest fire season

Sadie Babits
Northwest News Network
Ken Salazar gives an overview of what the 2011 fire season could be like for the West. He spoke at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.

The southern part of the U.S. – Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California – will likely have significant wildfires this year. Already fire crews are battling more than a dozen fires just in Texas. But here in the Northwest, the fire outlook is much rosier.Interior Secretary Ken Salazar toured the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise Thursday. He watched a smoke jumper get suited up as the rain fell outside. And he got briefed on what the fire picture could be this year.

Wildfire season, he says, will be significant especially in the South.

"Over the last several days I've been in a number of different states including the state of Texas where hundreds of thousands of acres of fire have broken out on the wildlands of Texas."

Those fires came early this year.

Salazar points to climate change, weather and changing fire patterns as reasons why the southern part of the U.S. is already seeing wildfires. But he says an above average snowpack and rainfall will at least push back the start of fire season in the Northwest.

"At least at this point nobody can tell if it will be in August, but at least up in this part of the world we may not have as many fire threats as we have in other places."

The wild card though,  is what will happen this summer. Hot temperatures, dry vegetation, lightning or a smoldering campfire could set the stage for another big fire season in states like Idaho.

NIFC – the nation's coordinating center for fire fighting – reports it has the resources, including the dollars, to handle whatever happens this season.

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