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Late July heatwave escalates wildland fire danger

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Posted at 7:19 PM, Jul 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-28 21:19:20-04

MISSOULA — Wildland fires have already been popping up in western Montana over the last week, and the current hot and dry weather pattern will only exacerbate already dry conditions.

With temperatures forecasted to reach the 90s and even triple digits through next Monday, the middle and higher elevations are drying out quickly. The Clear Creek Fire and the Magpie Rock Fire both started in an exceptionally dry part of the region, and northwest Montana as a whole is currently most susceptible to fire starts.

The entirety of western Montana is projected to see above normal fire behavior in the weeks ahead.

Northern Rockies Coordination Center predictive meteorologist, Michael Richmond, says this late July heatwave is setting the table for a potentially smoky August and September.

“The fire danger escalates in a matter of days and we do see the potential for dry lightning at various times and places from the Continental Divide westward through Friday," Richmond said. "There are going to be fire starts each day (Tuesday) through Friday.”

Richmond does offer up some good news, saying a lack of wind through the weekend means fire ignitions are not likely to spread quickly.