As we approach the traditional winter season in the northern latitudes, it can be easy to forget that it's wildfire season somewhere in the United States on any given day. Recent news stories from Georgia, Alabama and Kentucky are a clear reminder that "wildfire season" varies widely around the country based on general climate and vegetation conditions as well as short-term weather impacts. Even when wildfires are not predicted or necessarily expected, they can occur and cause significant damage, as evidenced by the recent Junkins Fire outside of Pueblo, Colorado, where one news source reports nine homes burned.
The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) Predictive Services issues a monthly and seasonal set of predictions to give a national picture of the outlook for significant wildfire activity. For November and into the beginning of 2017, Southern California and much of the southeast region of the country are predicted to have "above normal" potential for significant wildfire activity. The report issued today providing the outlook for November through January comments that fire seasons are "normal", except in Southern California due to the continued presence of long-term drought, and in the southeastern United States. (The report helpfully notes that "normal" does not mean no fires will occur). The southeastern area is also suffering from long-term drought, but as the report notes, the wildfire potential "is going to be exacerbated by dry leaf litter falling on top of already dry fuels and also occasional dry and windy periods." An abundant grass crop will also provide fuel for fires during dry and windy periods in the southern Plains.
Residents and travelers can find out more about current conditions by staying aware of local weather reports and checking at National Weather Service and NOAA websites for fire weather forecasts. Maintaining Firewise homes and landscapes can help cut the risk of home ignition during a wildfire during high fire danger periods.