Hereâ€™s my shot at answering your questions:
1. Fire season is over when itâ€™s over. Iâ€™m in northern New Mexico, and weâ€™ve transitioned from monsoons and dry lightning to actual wetting rains, so our season is fairly well over…but our season also got rolling in February, with a hiatus for the snows in April and May. Basically, fire season is over when temperatures stop getting above the seventies and humidities stop dropping below about fifty percent…but that will vary from place to place for any number of reasons. Here, we also expect sort of spike when people start firing up their woodstoves…more structure fires, with the potential to cross the urban-wildland interface and get out into the woods. And we almost never get humidities above fifty percent. If you have the information, check a fire weather report for a number called Probability of Ignition, or POI. A POI above 70% is a â€œWatch Out condition…thatâ€™s when you get extreme fire behavior such as running and torching (running is when a fire makes sudden, fast movements and can jump containment lines; torching with when trees go up all at once…just rush, crackle, and no more tree). If you start seeing consistent POIs below about forty percent, at the hottest part of the day, at least by New Mexican standards, no more fire season. Down in southern New Mexico, which is more of where Iâ€™m from, the season kicks up in April and May and again ends with the wetting rains in August. In California, the season can go from March to November, but thatâ€™s pretty extraordinary. It can also vary a lot from year to year. El NiÃ±o makes a huge difference, so can a drought year. Fuel moisture content is huge; the reason our season got going so early was because weâ€™ve had a long drought and our thousand-hour fuels (that means trees and big logs) had basically no moisture in them at all. Iâ€™m not totally sure what the predictions are for this year…in our area our chief was predicting a late season because of the late snows…we were figuring that the lush spring growth would dry and then go woof in July and August, which didnâ€™t happen, fortunately…we got the wetting rains early enough that we just got a few lightning strikes that stuck around and nothing that ran.
2. In my part of the world, we get a lot of fire folks who work the ski areas in the winter…ski patrol for those with medical training, making snow, running lifts. Some just live frugally over the winter, not doing much. Thereâ€™s a lot of seasonal work that picks up in ski towns during the winter…ambulance services, various retail and service industries. Waiting tables, bagging groceries, renting and guiding snowmobiles, hunters, cross-country skiers. Thereâ€™s a lot of training that happens over the off season, too. Iâ€™m a vollie; I do this in addition to my â€˜realâ€™ job. I plan to train a lot this winter; get my classroom work together so I can do more next season. I also run with an ambulance service and structure fire department; weâ€™re expecting that side of things to pick up as more people light their fireplaces and stoves and find out what took up residence in the chimney over the summer, and what ate the wires in their fancy ski chalet. More people losing it on the roads and the slopes too. Spring and fall, the times between snow and fire, are the lean and hungry seasons.
3. No clue. Iâ€™d just sit down and compare coverage maps carefully. Satellite phones are getting cheaper, but Iâ€™ve never seen one in or around a fire camp.
Told ya. Itâ€™s good to hear you happy.
Kick her into next week. Weâ€™re rooting for ya.
(laughing) Can I put you in contact with my mom? She could use a few pointers.
Nerd on the Fireline (delighted with all of you)