Sunday, July 2, 2017

Western wildfire threat to continue through Independence Day

By Faith Eherts, AccuWeather meteorologist
July 2,2017, 12:15:19PM,EDT
With several devastating fires already raging in the western United States, hot and dry weather will only exacerbate wildfire danger into early week, likely impeding Independence Day firework celebrations.
Many areas in the Southwest did not receive any rainfall in June, including Phoenix, Fresno, California, and Cedar City, in southwestern Utah.
However, for many of these locations, a lack of rainfall isn’t rare for this time of year. What is rare is the frequent bouts of gusty winds and the recent long-lasting and deadly heat wave.
This past month was the hottest June on record in Tucson, Arizona. While no measurable rainfall was recorded, temperatures in the city soared to or above 110 F on six occasions.
Unfortunately, little relief is in sight.
Western fire July 2
"Hot conditions will persist across the Intermountain West through Independence Day," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski said.
"Dry lightning strikes threaten to spark new wildfires from the Wasatch Mountains in Utah to southwestern Montana into Sunday evening, while gusty winds re-develop over the lower Colorado River Basin," she said.
These conditions are prime for fanning a spark or small fire into a large-scale inferno.
"Fewer incidents of gusty winds and thunderstorms are expected to follow for Monday and Tuesday west of the Continental Divide, but the heat will persist away from the coastline," Pydynowski said.
“Residents and visitors need to be mindful of these dry conditions by taking precautions such as avoiding discarding of cigarettes out car windows and making sure that any campfires are completely extinguished before leaving the site,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Ryan Adamson advised.
Across California, the drought-busting rainfall from this past winter could prove disastrous now that wildfire season is underway.
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The abundance of rainfall led to a dramatic boom in foliage, which has begun to dry out in the hot sunshine and is potential fuel for any wildfire.
Brush fires near Los Angeles have burned dangerously close to homes, including one in Burbank which prompted evacuations. Those evacuations have since been lifted, according to the Los Angeles Times.
A 21,000-acre wildfire prompted a state of emergency to be declared in parts of Arizona, where several hundred firefighters are struggling to contain the fire in the windy conditions. By Saturday morning, the Goodwin Fire was 44 percent contained and thousands of residents had been evacuated, though some have since been allowed to return.
More evacuation orders were lifted in the vicinity of the massive Brian Head Fire as firefighters made significant progress on Friday. The fire is 65 percent contained, according to InciWeb, and has burned more than 65,000 acres since being started on June 17.
"Firefighters cited lighter winds in the reason for gaining the upper hand on the blaze," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski said. "However, gusty winds from the southwest will gradually become more problematic into Sunday evening."
Late week West July 2
Looking ahead beyond the holiday, the fire danger will further heighten later this week as heat builds and thunderstorm chances increase.
"The thunderstorms that erupt in the northern Rockies later this week will likely produce more dry lightning strikes than rainfall," Pydynowski said. "There may be more wet thunderstorms developing in the mountains of Arizona and Southern California at this time, but lightning strikes away from the main thunderstorm could still touch off new wildfires."
Thunderstorms also bring the risk of erratic and gusty winds.
"Conditions will remain much more comfortable at the California beaches and along the I-5 corridor in the Northwest through this week as cooler air continues to flow in from the ocean," Pydynowski. "That will keep relative humidity levels up, which slows the rate at which fires burn."

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