BOB MOEN Associated Press Writer CHEYENNE, Wyo.
Wyoming and Montana are seeing fewer and less intense wildfires this summer although there is still about a month and a half left in the fire season, state foresters in b o t h s t a t e s s a i d Thursday. "I think by any measure it's been a really good fire season," Montana State Forester Bob Harrington said. "What we're looking at is probably something that we'd categorize as a less than normal fire season." Both Wyoming State Forester Bill Crapser and Harrington cited a cool start to the summer and fewer dry lightning storms as reasons for the relatively calm fire season. "We've been able to catch them small and keep them small," Crapser said. "We've had a fair amount of activity, but we've been fortunate with the weather and we've been real fortunate with the lack of lightning for the summer." There was little fire activity in Wyoming until mid-July, he said. Normally, the fire season starts in mid-June. "We've had very, very few man-caused fires, too, which has been very helpful," Crapser said. Harrington said Montana has spent only about $2 million fighting wildfires this year, compared to spending some $50 million last year when the state had to call a special legislative session to pay its firefighting costs. So far this year, Montana has recorded 1,119 fires that have burned about 48,000 acres. In 2007, the state had more than 1,700 wildfires that Burned about 740,000 acres. "So it's not that we haven't had a fair amount of initial attack activity," Harrington said. "We've just had enough well-timed moisture as well as late spring, early summer moisture that has limited the fire behavior." Crapser said the late spring and early summer moisture produced healthy plants that don't burn as easily as when they are dried out. "We had places that were green in the state that haven't been green in 10 years," he said. Wyoming won't have an accounting of its number of fires and acres burned until this fall, Crapser said. But he said the firefighting helicopter the state contracts for the summer has been involved in fighting just one large fire this summer. In 2006, for instance, it was involved in at least 17 large wildfires, he said. The wildfire season is general ly over by the end of September in both states.