2005 Fire Season Marked by Big Range Fires

Wildfire experts have come across a seeming contradiction this summer: While the number of acres charred across the West is almost double the 10-year average, the blazes haven't been as big or devastating as those in past years.

Mid-elevation woodlands with a heavy buildup of dry, dead material on the forest floor mixed with open areas that have heavy grass and shrubs are yielding higher than average ''energy release components'' -- a measure of the available energy that would be released in the flaming front of a fire.

''In the area that runs from Northern California through central and eastern Oregon on into central Idaho, we are seeing energy release components that are setting records,'' said Wordell.