The first official fire forecast for 2013 has been released and if the predictions are accurate, the year will likely play out very similarly to 2012.

"What we're expecting for Montana is sort of a normal start to fire season," said wildfire analyst for predictive services with the National Interagency Fire Center Jeremy Sullins. "Not really an active fire season beginning until we start to get into the summer months of July and August, and then most of the significant fire activity to be in the southern tier. With above normal fire potential in southwest Montana."

Sullins explained that the southern tier includes the area around Missoula and below.. The leading indicator for the "above normal" fire danger forecast appears to be drought.

"What we're seeing now is the effects of some long term drought and not very much precipitation occurring over the water year so far, especially in 2013. And so what we're expecting is conditions that could be similar to last year, though probably not as bad."

Sullins also said that recent snowfall will help, but probably won't be enough to stave off another troublesome fire season.

Wildfire Analyst Jeremy Sullins