Elevated Wildfire Risk Continues in West

By Brian Lada, Meteorologist
July 3, 2013; 8:00 PM ET
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Play video A look at the wildfires burning in Arizona.

The elevated risk of wildfires continues in the West this week after several weeks of hot, dry conditions paired with the threat of dry thunderstorms.

Although summers in the West are typically hot and dry, this year has been unusually dry with most of the region experiencing drought conditions.

Currently, there are dozens of wildfires burning across the western United States with a majority of the fires in Colorado, Arizona and California.

One of these wildfires includes the Yarnell Hill Fire which has already killed 19 firefighters working to contain the blaze.

Drought has been a major factor contributing to the start of these wildfires. The worst of the drought stretches from western Kansas through central New Mexico.

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The recent heat wave in the West has not helped the drought, causing vegetation to become more susceptible to catching fire.

One of the main causes of wildfires across the West during these conditions are dry thunderstorms. During these storms, the humidity near the ground is so low that all of the rain from the storm evaporates before it reaches the ground.

Although the rain evaporates as it falls, lightning from these storms can still strike the ground and potentially spark wildfires.

Unfortunately, the Southwest will have the chance of these dry thunderstorms every day this week, mainly in the higher elevations.

With dry thunderstorms in the forecast, wildfires can ignite with little to no warning and spread rapidly, feeding on dry vegetation.

These storms can also have negative impacts on wildfires already burning. Winds produced by the storms allow fires to grow rapidly and switch directions abruptly, making the battle against the blaze even more difficult for firefighters.

Story by AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Brian Lada. Image on homepage courtesy of Photos.com

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