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Thunderstorms erupted around the Brian Head Fire in southwestern Utah on Friday but caused more headaches for firefighters than assistance. Crews will be faced with similar problems this weekend.
The Brian Head Fire has charred more than 71,000 acres since being started by a human on June 17, according to InciWeb. The blaze is 80 percent contained. However, firefighters noted that gusty winds from mid-morning thunderstorms hindered their efforts on Friday.
Additional thunderstorms are expected to ignite over the higher terrain of Utah this weekend, mainly during the afternoon hours.
Because humidity values are not expected to rise significantly until next week, any rain that develops high up in thunderstorm clouds may have a difficult time reaching the ground.
“Any thunderstorms will likely be more of a hindrance than a help as most of the activity will produce lightning and gusty winds but little, if any, in the way of rainfall,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Ryan Adamson said.
Although the Brian Head Fire was human-induced, any dry lightning strikes threaten to ignite additional blazes and exacerbate ongoing ones.
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The Brian Head Fire is only one of nearly three dozen large wildfires currently raging across the West, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. This is up from about two dozen last week.
Nearly 474,000 acres in the United States have been burned by fires currently active. Eleven Western states are currently reporting active large fires.
The Brian Head Fire has been responsible for the temporary closure of Brian Head and Panguitch Lakes, although these have now been reopened. Part of the Dixie National Forest remains closed. Utah state officials estimate that the cost of fighting the blaze could exceed $20 million.
It may not be until at least mid-July before firefighters fully contain the destructive fire.
High temperatures reaching 15-20 degrees above mid-summer normals will continue to bake the Intermountain West into early week.
Monsoonal moisture will finally begin to surge northward into the Four Corners region during the coming week, helping to douse ongoing fires and moisten parched vegetation.
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