Forum Index > Trail Talk > fire danger in late August this year? (Glacier Peak Wilderness)
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RyanP
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RyanP
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PostSun Apr 16, 2023 9:50 pm 
Hello all, first-time poster here. I will be in Seattle in late August for a wedding, so I'm considering sticking around the following week and doing my "big" (probably 6-7 day) backpacking trip of the year there in WA. I have already identified a loop that I'm excited about in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. My biggest concern is wildfire smoke/haze; I just hate hiking when the sky is hazy/smoky, and it seems like a number of trip reports from that area at that time of year (from previous years) have smoke/haze (based on my small sample size from perusing the internet for a few hours). Normally I try to keep a flexible schedule and keep to within driving distance of my home in Denver, CO, so I can alter plans at the last minute to go somewhere with clear skies and weather as much as possible, but on this trip I wouldn't have much flexibility since I'd be flying there. Does anyone have any insight into what level of fire dangers to expect this year? If it's too early to tell, then at what point in the summer do you usually have a feel for fire danger level? Thanks in advance for any feedback! Ryan

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jinx'sboy
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PostMon Apr 17, 2023 12:05 am 
It is a little early to be forecasting fire season….. A couple things to keep an eye on. - The NW Coordination Center has a ‘predictive services’ unit. (The National Center in Boise does also.). They do a monthly update….looks like next will be May 1. You can see the short info video here. Also, below the video are links to other information. Whether or not they hazard a guess as to August and Sept, at that May 1 time, remains to be seen. https://gacc.nifc.gov/nwcc/predict/outlook.aspx - I like looking at long term NOAA predictions (these are the same resources the predictors are using to create the info above). Obviously 3 to 5 months out gets a little iffy. These are updated monthly, on the THIRD Thursday of the month, so new ones will be out this week. You can chose different time sequences from the legend on the left. https://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/long_range/seasonal.php?lead=4 A couple things to keep in mind about forecasting long term fire and weather. - An old fire behavior guy told me “it is the amount of moisture we get from mid-April to mid-June that determines fire season. The wetting of larger fuels is the key”. That is probably more true on the east side of the Cascades than the west. - Another old fire guy I worked with was always asked “What kind of fire season we gonna have this year, Bill?”…. “I’ll let you know in November”, he’d say. Hope that helps

Anne Elk, RichP, Cyclopath
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gb
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gb
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PostMon Apr 17, 2023 7:38 am 
The CPC does climate forecasts out a year or so. They show us being drier than normal and warmer than normal once we get past April/May. The snowpack really has been about average this winter but has been melting much more slowly because we have had a very cool late winter and early spring. The problem we have had is that we have had very dry mid-Springs to Summers - but the key is whether cut-off low pressure systems sit and spin to our south which advects lightning into our area. I don't like our current pattern as it has been dominated by similar systems the past few months. The Northwest has historically done well with respect to lightning because systems have been more progressive - moving west to east across the region. But time will tell.

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kiliki
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PostMon Apr 17, 2023 8:02 am 
We've been heavily impacted not just by fires in WA but by smoke from BC, OR and even CA, so it's not just local conditions that matter. Just spend the relatively small amount of money to make your flight refundable. There have been enough weather and fire events in the last few years that I never thought were even possible here that I would okauy plan for the worst, hope for the best.

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Malachai Constant
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PostMon Apr 17, 2023 9:16 am 
Regardless of fires access May me difficult to the glacier peak area. The Suiattle road will be closed all summer which adds 20 miles to popular hikes such as Miners Ridge, Sulphur Ridge, Suiattle Pass, Vista Ridge, and Gamma. Ridge. A large fire north of Highway 2 west of Stevens Pass will cut off some access. Whitechuck road has been closed for years. The situation from the East side may be better.

"You do not laugh when you look at the mountains, or when you look at the sea." Lafcadio Hearn
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Eric Hansen
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PostMon Apr 17, 2023 10:28 am 
A lot of solid comments here. One other tool may be worth monitoring, the "North American Seasonal Fire Assessment and Outlook" https://www.predictiveservices.nifc.gov/outlooks/NA_Outlook.pdf Value there would be its inclusion of Canada in assessment. Currently they show southern British Columbia, Vancouver Island, moving into the red zone in June. As Kiliki mentioned, smoke may not be local in origin, but coming from neighboring states and provinces. One other thought, having done a lot of "fly in" trips. If you have a "Plan B" hike that interests you enough it is actually a "Plan A-" you will not hesitate when conditions dictate it is time to call an audible.

Off trail rambler
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jinx'sboy
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PostMon Apr 17, 2023 10:41 am 
Eric Hansen wrote:
A lot of solid comments here. One other tool may be worth monitoring, the "North American Seasonal Fire Assessment and Outlook" https://www.predictiveservices.nifc.gov/outlooks/NA_Outlook.pdf Value there would be its inclusion of Canada in assessment.
Yes, this is part the seasonal assessments that are done by NIFC, in Boise, that I mentioned. Interesting- I had not realized that both Mexico and Canada were included in some of the predictions. Very cool!

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zimmertr
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PostMon Apr 17, 2023 10:48 am 
It seems like the last week of August and the first week of September has been when wildfires have kicked off the past few years. But maybe I'm misremembering. Does anyone know the best place to get historical AQI data? It would be cool to look back over the past 5 or so years to see which weeks had unhealthy AQI and see if there is an obvious trend.

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RyanP
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PostMon Apr 17, 2023 11:22 am 
Thanks all for the prompt and informative responses! I'll look at these resources when I get a chance in the next few days.

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RyanP
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RyanP
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PostMon Apr 17, 2023 11:33 am 
Quote:
Regardless of fires access May me difficult to the glacier peak area. The Suiattle road will be closed all summer which adds 20 miles to popular hikes such as Miners Ridge, Sulphur Ridge, Suiattle Pass, Vista Ridge, and Gamma. Ridge.
I was planning on starting/ending at the Little Giant Pass Trailhead, which is on the Chiwawa River Rd (6200?) (same road that is used to access the Spider Gap/Buck Creek Pass Loop). I'm assuming I don't need to take the Suiattle Rd to get there? (sometimes roads have multiple names so I want to double-check)
Quote:
A large fire north of Highway 2 west of Stevens Pass will cut off some access. .
Just to clarify, are you saying that there was already a fire north of Hwy 2 west of Stevens Pass that will cut off access, or are you saying that *if* there ends up being a fire there later this summer, then it would cut off access?

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RyanP
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RyanP
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PostMon Apr 17, 2023 11:37 am 
Quote:
It seems like the last week of August and the first week of September has been when wildfires have kicked off the past few years. But maybe I'm misremembering. Does anyone know the best place to get historical AQI data? It would be cool to look back over the past 5 or so years to see which weeks had unhealthy AQI and see if there is an obvious trend.
I agree; historical AQI would be very useful. Otherwise, does anyone have any anecdotal, rough summary of how often wildfire smoke/haze tends to be an issue in late August in that area? Are we talking roughly half of the time, or 70% of the time, or 20% of the time?

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grannyhiker
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PostMon Apr 17, 2023 12:09 pm 
It's always advisable to have a Plan B and even a Plan C. I have more than once had to switch at the last minute. That's with a 30 year history of backpacking! Your Plan C might be the refundable airfare!

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.--E.Abbey
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Anne Elk
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PostMon Apr 17, 2023 12:33 pm 
Looks like all the previous posts have given you a pretty good idea that fire/smoke conditions are highly variable, especially with Washington being so affected by fires in BC, Oregon, etc. A few years ago (I forget which summer months) we had so much smoke coming in from BC and Oregon that you could smell the char in Seattle. But you're coming out here anyway for the wedding. If it's more important to get out than to hike in the scenic spot of 1st choice, why not consider a high loop or through hike in the Olympics? There are some pretty nifty trips from that area with lots of pics in NWH's trip reports section. You'll get a way better idea of what you'd see looking through those than either a guidebook or the trip reports on the WTA site. You'll just have to build in some logistics for ferries and watch out for the periodic Hood Canal Bridge closures coming up this year. Believe it or not, even the Olympics have been pretty darn dry these years. Maybe you could get two permits/reservations, and cancel one once you get here based on conditions.

"There are yahoos out there. It’s why we can’t have nice things." - Tom Mahood

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Cyclopath
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PostMon Apr 17, 2023 12:35 pm 
RyanP wrote:
I agree; historical AQI would be very useful. Otherwise, does anyone have any anecdotal, rough summary of how often wildfire smoke/haze tends to be an issue in late August in that area? Are we talking roughly half of the time, or 70% of the time, or 20% of the time?
No. This is a new phenomenon. It started 5 or 6 years ago and it's too early to be able to say. Fires have always been a thing here but the wind patterns have changed.

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Cyclopath
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PostMon Apr 17, 2023 12:36 pm 
zimmertr wrote:
Does anyone know the best place to get historical AQI data?
I asked this question last year and was pointed to a bunch of bad data sources, so be aware of that possibility.

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