Our first thought about this year's fire season was that it should be a little lighter than most of those in recent years. After all, there's more water up in the hills, more water moving around, even a little flooding in spots. And so far it hasn't been an especially hot or dry summer.
But all that water is generating a lot more plants. (Our garden is doing much better this year than last, thanks.) And those plants seem to be generating a lot more fires.
Here's the national fire picture, from the National Interagency Fire Center at Boise, year to date, comparing the last few years.
2006 (1/1/06 - 6/22/06) Fires: 53,563 Acres: 3,187,940
2005 (1/1/05 - 6/22/05) Fires: 27,906 Acres: 745,959
2004 (1/1/04 - 6/22/04) Fires: 35,889 Acres: 790,941
2003 (1/1/03 - 6/22/03) Fires: 25,338 Acres: 520,384
2002 (1/1/02 - 6/22/02) Fires: 42,846 Acres: 2,283,493
2001 (1/1/01 - 6/22/01) Fires: 38,742 Acres: 861,714
The average through that period is 38,914 to this point in the year; you'll notice we're considerably exceeding it this year. In fact, on the averages so far, this is shaping up as possibly the worst fire year for a long time.
What's helped - and the main reason you've not been hearing about it much yet - is that most of these fires so far in 2006 have been small and unspectacular, and some have been controlled burns. At the moment no fires are reported in Washington or Oregon, and just one (near Wendell, but good sized at 8,700 acres) in Idaho. But the way the year is progressing, things may not stay that way. Keep a watch.