Western Heat to Raise Fire Danger This Week

By Brian Lada, Meteorologist
July 9, 2014; 2:00 PM ET
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The first full week of July will bring an elevated risk of wildfires across the West.

Temperatures through Wednesday are forecast to reach well into the 90s across much of the Northwest's interior as cooler conditions are experienced along the coast and in the mountains.

While these temperatures are within a few degrees of normal for the deserts, they are as much as 15 degrees above the typical high temperatures across the Pacific Northwest.

The heat will continue to build into the weekend over the Northwest. Temperatures are forecast to soar to near 90 along the coast and near or above 100 over the interior.

The combination of the heat, low humidity and dry conditions will set the stage for the elevated fire danger risk over much of the Northwest.

Any areas of the West in the grasp of the ongoing drought are at a particularly higher risk of wildfires as the lack of rainfall has left vegetation abnormally dry.

People in the West should use caution when dealing with any type of open flame, power equipment and vehicles. In the right conditions, a smoldering cigarette, spark or hot exhaust can lead to an out-of-control brush fire.

The entire West is not expected to remain dry, however.

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The Southwest monsoon has begun to develop and will be in full swing for the new week.

Afternoon thunderstorms are expected to develop over western New Mexico, Arizona, southern Nevada and southeastern California each day through Wednesday.

Torrential downpours and frequent lighting are common with these types of thunderstorms which can result in flash flooding and in some cases, lightning-induced fires.

Wind gusts ahead of these storms can also kick up dust and create a phenomenon known as a haboob.

Recently, a haboob developed ahead of a thunderstorm tracking from Tucson, Arizona, and blew through Phoenix, reducing visibility to under one-quarter mile while it moved through the city.

In some cases the storms will bring little or no rain. Lightning strikes from these storms could start new wildfires.

Daily thunderstorms over the interior Southwest associated with the monsoon are forecast to become less numerous, but still develop in some locations during the afternoon into the weekend.

Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski contributed content to this story.

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