BOISE, Idaho, April 3 (UPI) -- An unusually warm, dry winter could lead to an unusually severe wildfire season in parts of the Western and Southern United States, fire experts say.
"Florida will remain the highest fire risk area into May, where the traditional fire season is May through June," the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, said in its national wildfire forecast for April and early summer.
The center coordinates U.S. wildland firefighting resources, as well as support in response to floods, hurricanes and earthquakes, nationally.
Colorado and Florida each reported one large fire as of Friday, while South Dakota and Virginia reported two, the center said in a report. In addition, the Florida Forest Service reported 74 mostly small wildfires burning 4,097 acres across the state, a review of the service's latest report, issued 8 a.m. EDT Monday, indicated.
Other parts of the Southeast, including coastal areas of North and South Carolina and Georgia, were also at risk through July, fire center meteorologist Ed Delgado was quoted by USA Today as saying.
About 100 residents southwest of Denver, forced to evacuate by a wildfire last week, returned to their homes Monday after crews contained the blaze that charred 6 square miles and killed three people.
Temperatures dropped below freezing and snow fell early Tuesday -- a pointed difference from March's warm dry fire-producing weather.
As of March 27, nearly 60 percent of the contiguous United States -- the most in 5 1/2 years -- was either abnormally dry or in some form of drought, the U.S. Drought Monitor federal Web site said.
More than 10,000 wildfires have charred about 183,000 acres nationally, the fire center said.
The normal average is about 14,000 fires burning nearly 500,000 acres from January through March each year, USA Today reported.
Windy weather was forecast this month to create prime conditions for wildfires in the central and northern Great Plains, west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains, specifically in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and South Dakota, USA Today said.