The threat of major U.S. wildfires will remain high throughout August in Southern California, northern Nevada and parts of the Northwest and northern Great Plains, forecasters said Tuesday.
A wet winter and spring produced thick grasses in the region, but a hot June melted the snow and dried out the vegetation, leaving it vulnerable to lightning-caused fires, said Bryan Henry, a meteorologist for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, which produces the forecast .
“That’s probably going to continue into the middle of September until we can get the transition into winter,” he said.
A severe drought in eastern Montana and the western Dakotas is making the fire danger worse. The threat of major fires there was expected to remain above normal through October and possibly November.
Southern California could also see high fire danger into October or November, the forecast said.
In the Northwest, the August fire danger was above normal in eastern Washington, eastern Oregon and most of Idaho.
Bryan said some the vulnerable areas in the Northwest are in the path of the Aug. 21 eclipse and are expected to draw large crowds.
“We’d like to encourage people to be very careful out there,” he said.
The August fire risk is also high in northern Wyoming and on Hawaii’s Big Island. Fire potential was low in the Southeast and normal across most of the rest of the U.S.
Thirty-six large wildfires were burning Tuesday in nine mostly Western states, including 11 in Montana, nine in California and six in Oregon, the fire center said. Nationwide, the active fires have burned more than 900 square miles (2,300 square kilometers).
So far this year, 39,000 fires have burned nearly 8,600 square miles (22,000 square kilometers). That compares with about 34,000 fires burning 5,500 square miles (14,000 square kilometers) at the same time last year.