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Firefighters prepare for 2018 fire season

Normal significant fire potential into mid-July

A smokejumper lands at McComas Meadows during a recent all-forest preparedness event for the 2018 fire season.

Credit: Jeanette Dreadfulwater, USFS
A smokejumper lands at McComas Meadows during a recent all-forest preparedness event for the 2018 fire season.

More than 200 firefighters — representing seven fire management units from the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests — attended an all-forest preparedness event earlier this month to ensure their readiness for the upcoming 2018 fire year.

The forest is currently staffed with approximately 260 firefighting personnel, including hand crews, engine modules, two helitack crews, 30 smokejumpers, a wildland use fire module, and a variety of other support staff.

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Firefighters demonstrated their knowledge and skills while participating in a variety of event stations, including a pumping station, engine, equipment and firefighter review station, mobile attack station, aviation/helitack station, and medical extraction/emergency station. 

The Grangeville Smokejumpers, located at the Grangeville Air Center, also hosted their annual refresher, which involved approximately 40 jumpers from multiple locations including Missoula, McCall, and West Yellowstone. Smokejumpers across the country are transitioning to the Ram-air (or square chutes) from the traditional round chutes. According to the agency, although a few of the smokejumpers attending the refresher still jumped using the round parachutes, every jumper stationed in Grangeville has successfully transitioned to the Ram-air chutes.

This work is in preparation for the upcoming fire year, which the agency expects to see normal significant wildland fire potential June through mid-July because it will still be drying out due to the above average snowpack and recent rainfall events in late April into June. 

By mid-July, heavy fine fuels will be dried out at lower elevations in North Idaho and Western/Central Montana. Higher elevations will be drier than average in the latter half of July, which warrants an increase to above normal significant wildland fire potential in Idaho and Western/Central Montana. 

Above normal potential will continue into August and September, according to the agency, but areas with elevated potential will be expanded to include southern Montana. 


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