DENVER (KDVR) — Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research say this summer’s western wildfire season is likely to be more severe than average, but not as devastating as last year.

The NCAR came up with the prediction using an experimental method that analyzes precipitation, temperatures, drought, and other climate conditions in the winter and spring.

Scientists at NCAR said climate across large parts of the west plays an important role in setting the stage for wildfires.

“What our research shows is that the climate of the preceding winter and spring can explain over 50% of the year-to-year variability and overall trend in summer fire activity,” said NCAR scientist Ronnie Abolafia-Rosenzweig, the lead author of the study. “This gives us the ability to predict fire activity before the summer fire season begins.” 

According to the prediction, fires this summer will burn 1.9-5.3 million acres in the west, with 3.8 million acres being the most likely total.

NCAR said 8.7 million acres burned in the west in 2020.

The NCAR scientists said that their prediction is currently for research purposes only. But they said their method, once further tested and improved, could help provide guidance to firefighting agencies in the future.

“This information can be extremely useful to firefighting agencies as they allocate resources and prepare for the upcoming fire season,” Abolafia-Rosenzweig said.

Preventing wildfires

There are several steps that can be taken to prevent wildfires. Here are some important tips from the National Weather Service:

  • Do not light campfires, bonfires, candles or anything else that could blow over and start a fire.
  • If you smoke, be sure to extinguish your cigarette or cigar before disposing of it. Never throw a burning item out a window.
  • Bag up trash, clippings and other easily flammable items.
  • Don’t drive on areas of dry vegetation/grass
  • Be vigilant, and if you see a fire or suspicious activity, report it immediately
  • Avoid activities with open flames or sparks
  • Avoid power equipment that creates sparks
  • Obey burn bans

Have a wildfire emergency kit

If you see smoke or fire heading your way, it is important to evacuate, especially if you’re ordered to do so by local officials.

According to Be Wildfire Ready, a website run by the Grand County Wildfire Council, the most important thing is to have an emergency supply kit and evacuation bag ready to go ahead of time. This will allow you to get out of a home in a matter of minutes and can be the difference between life and death in a fast-moving fire.

The kit should have face coverings, enough water and food to last for three days, a map with at least two evacuation routes, a first aid kit, prescription drugs, and extra clothes. If time allows grabbing easily carried valuables and family photos or other irreplaceable items will help relieve the burden if your home is destroyed.

The International Fire Chiefs Association said it’s crucial to have an action plan in place in case a wildfire starts.

  • Important phone numbers- Emergency and non-emergency
  • The owner of your property
  • List of local news and radio stations
  • Location of electrical and natural gas shut offs
  • Directions notating all neighborhood exits
  • Exit routes
  • Meeting location
  • Area shelters/safety zones

Get your home ready

It is also important to prepare your home in case a wildfire sparks.

Einar Jensen, risk reduction specialist with South Metro Fire Rescue offered steps to help mitigate fire activity.

Clear any brush away from your home, make sure nothing flammable is near your home, clean your gutters, and trim your trees.

“You absolutely do not want junipers or any relations to junipers (like similar bushes) within 30 feet of our homes,” he said.

Another step is to find an outdoor water source with a hose that can reach any area of your property.

If you’re building a home, try to choose fire-resistant materials like stucco and concrete.

Review your insurance policy and document your property

Another step you can take is to check your insurance policy and understand what it covers in case there’s a wildfire.

ReadyForWildfire.org says it’s important to document things in your home before a fire happens. Here are the following tips from the organization on how to do that:

  • Video or photograph each room of your home: Remember to document drawers and closets
  • Describe your home’s contents in your video: Mention the price you paid, where and when you bought the item.
  • Remember to note important or expensive items: Video your electronics, appliances, sports equipment, TVs, computers, tablets
  • Save receipts for major purchases: Store key documents in the cloud or fireproof case. Keep home inventory offsite or in the cloud.
  • Video your garage: Don’t forget to video or photograph what is inside your garage.

Weather forecast

Keep an eye on the weather forecast for things like fire weather watches and warnings, or red flag warnings. You can see active weather alerts here.

Be sure to download the free Pinpoint Weather App to stay up-to-date with the newest weather data as it comes in and to get important alerts straight to your phone.