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Wildfire threat is high for Big Isle


    Tim Weyer tours his ranch, which was consumed by wildfires, Tuesday, in Sand Springs, Mont. Firefighters say they have stopped most of the growth and gained 20 percent containment on the fires that were started last week by lightning.

The threat of major wildfires for the leeward side of Hawaii island will remain high through October, forecasters said today.

All other areas of the state can expect normal conditions through November, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, which produces the forecast.

Sea surface temperatures around the islands are expected to remain above normal through November, helping to raise temperatures throughout the islands, the report said.

A lighter than normal rainfall in July allowed drought conditions to spread across parts of the Big Island, but normal rainfall is now expected and the most critical drought conditions are expected to remain only in leeward areas of the island.

Meanwhile, the specter of major wildfires will also remain high throughout August in Southern California, northern Nevada and parts of the Northwest and northern Great Plains, the report said.

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, of the National Interagency Fire Center.

“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.

Fire potential was low in the Southeast and normal across most of the rest of the U.S.

Thirty-six large wildfires were burning today 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.

So far this year, 39,000 fires have burned nearly 8,600 square miles. That compares with about 34,000 fires burning 5,500 square miles at the same time last year.

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