DENVER (AP) — The upcoming wildfire season across the U.S. isn't expected to be as bad as last year's infernos, when a record 15,800 square miles burned, the nation's top wildland firefighting official said Wednesday.
But parts of the nation should expect a rough season after a warm, dry winter or because of long-term drought, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said.
Southern California, other parts of the Southwest, Alaska and Montana are all vulnerable, he said.
"So where we anticipate the severity of the fire season will not be at the same level as last year, we still expect to have some areas that will be really active," Tidwell said.
Tidwell discussed the fire outlook with The Associated Press four days before the federal government issues its wildfire outlook for the summer season. He was in Denver for a conference on forest health.
California is vulnerable because much of the state remains in a drought, despite an El Nino weather system that brought near-average snowfall to its northern mountains. Wildfires have already broken out in Alaska after a warm winter with below-average precipitation.