On fires, smoke, and the changing prime time for outdoor recreation in the Intermountain West.

On fires, smoke, and the changing prime time for outdoor recreation in the Intermountain West.
By Ralph Maughan
I’ve been posting a lot of stories about wildfires, but that seems like the dominant factor in the outdoors to me right now in Montana, Utah, Idaho, and Western Wyoming. Everyday about 9 am to as late as noon, the sky at Pocatello, Idaho becomes covered by high smoke, visibility decreases. Everything is hot and washed out in appearance.

I started seriously exploring the backcountry in these states when I was 25 years old, and some of you might have noticed the newstories about my recent retirement (age 62). One of the biggest changes over 35 years is the months for the best “summer” recreation. Back in the late 70s and early 1980s, it was mid-June until about mid-August. Prior to mid-June there was too much snow in the mountains. Now the prime time is early May to July. Early May snowpack is similar to mid-June snowpack of 30 years ago.

Before 1980, a large forest fire was an unusual event and in most Augusts, the air was quite clean in skies of Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming. Now is it dirty almost every year from mid-July on due to the smoke from fires, near and and hundreds of miles away.

By late September the foul air is replaced by the clean and cool air of autumn.

Some people might take serious exception to what I have just written.

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Wildfire Location viewer. USGS. This looks like a very good way of keeping up with the location of the major fires.

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Though relatively small, Utah’s “Mathis fire” is number one firefighting priority in country.

This 1300-acre wildfire is burning in Utah’s coal country. There are numerous “de-gassing” bore holes present used to vent methane gas from mined-out sections of the numerous underground coal mines. So I presume the fire could set off mine explosions.

Story in the Salt Lake Tribune. By By Jason Bergreen and Mike Gorrell

Posted in The Great Outdoors, Wildfires. Comments Off on Though relatively small, Utah’s “Mathis fire” is number one firefighting priority in country.