Dangerous fire weather conditions remain in the West
Several large wildfires are burning in the region, including the McKinney Fire in Northern California and the Elmo Fire in Montana
The risk of wildfires continues to grow in the western U.S. as dry conditions, gusty winds and isolated dry thunderstorms are making conditions critical for fires to ignite.
This comes as several fires continue to burn in the region, including the Elmo Fire in Montana and the McKinney Fire in Northern California.
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The FOX Forecast Center says there's an elevated risk of wildfires across the Pacific Northwest from Spokane and Yakima in Washington south through central and eastern Oregon, including the cities of Pendleton, Burns and Paisley.
Most of Montana is also seeing elevated fire conditions, except for north-central Montana, where conditions are critical.
Dry thunderstorms also pose a risk in the region.
WHY DRY THUNDERSTORMS POSE WILDFIRE, DUST STORM RISKS
"The problem with dry thunderstorms, it's just that," FOX Weather meteorologist Michael Estime said. "There's no rainfall with it. So, should lightning strike a tree or strike some debris, that could catch fire and again, there's no rain to help extinguish them."
Residents of the western U.S. frequently see the term "dry thunderstorm" in their weather forecasts – particularly from late spring into summer – referring to lightning-producing storms with little or no rainfall. But these storms pose a problem: Lightning without rain can be a recipe for disaster.
Thunderstorms don't need rain to produce lightning. Cloud-to-ground lightning can strike the surface and spark a wildfire, especially if the vegetation is dry. Gusty winds associated with the thunderstorm can then fan the flames and cause the fire to quickly grow out of control.
HOW THE LAY OF THE LAND AFFECTS WILDFIRE BEHAVIOR
Because of the conditions, Fire Weather Warnings have been issued through at least Thursday evening.
Parts of northeastern Idaho, including the city of Salmon, are under the warnings.
Most of Montana is also under a Fire Weather Warning from Missoula, Great Falls and Bozeman to Glasgow and Miles City.
THE AIR QUALITY INDEX EXPLAINED
As fires burn across the western U.S., smoke could lead to concerns about the air quality.
According to the FOX Forecast Center, concerns would be the greatest across Montana, where the Elmo Fire is currently burning.
However, in areas of Northern California, where the McKinney fire is burning, thick smoke could also lead to concerns about air quality levels.
As of Thursday morning, though, there were no air quality alerts in effect.
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