- Thunderstorms in many areas could bring welcome rainfall, storms could also cause flash floods.
- The Dixie Fire in California covered nearly 388 square miles of mountains where 42 homes and other buildings were destroyed.
- Forest fires emit huge volumes of microscopic smoke particles which researchers believe can be harmful.
The Bootleg, Oregon blaze was up to 84% contained on Monday as firefighters advanced over the weekend to tackle the blaze, which is the nation’s largest at 646 square miles.
Elsewhere, authorities have canceled evacuation orders near the Dixie Fire in Northern California and another on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Despite the good news, authorities have warned that with unpredictable winds and extremely dry fuel across the west, the risk of outbreaks remains high over the next few days. In addition, while thunderstorms forecast in many areas could bring welcome precipitation, storms could also cause flash floods.
Places left without vegetation by the eruption of wildfires throughout the west are particularly prone to flash floods when bombarded by heavy rains.
Flash flood watches were in effect for mountainous areas in seven western states, from Montana to New Mexico, the National Weather Service said.
Nearly 22,000 firefighters and support personnel were battling 91 wildfires covering 2,813 square miles in most western states, the National Interagency Fire Center said.
Mixed blessing:Southwest monsoon rains alleviate drought – but also dangerous flooding
The Dixie Fire in California covered more than 390 square miles of mountains where 42 homes and other buildings were destroyed. The fire was 35% under control on Monday, and evacuation orders and warnings had been lifted for several areas.
Dry conditions and strong winds make for dangerous fire conditions in Hawaii. A wind advisory was issued Sunday for parts of Lanai, Maui and Big Island.
A rapid wildfire on the Big Island of Hawaii reached 62½ square miles, prompting evacuation orders that forced thousands of residents from their homes. Those orders were lifted on Sunday evening, but authorities told residents to remain vigilant.
“This is the biggest fire we’ve had here in Hawaii County,” said Cyrus Johnasen, communications director for Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth. “We would like people to feel safe, but remember this is an emergency.”
Two houses were destroyed in the fire, which was different from the fires that were burning in the American West. Hawaiian fires tend to break out in the large grasslands on the dry sides of islands and are generally much smaller than mainland fires. Even though Hawaii has a humid tropical climate that is generally not threatened by large fires, fires could become more frequent as weather conditions related to climate change intensify.
Hawaii County Fire Chief Kazuo Todd said winds are expected to increase on Monday.
“Our current wind forecast shows winds between 18 and 20 mph, with gusts up to 40 mph,” Todd said on Sunday evening, “and so, throughout the evening, our crews will be working on building cups. -fire with bulldozers and rear burns, this temporary lift on compulsory evacuation may need to be stepped up later due to prevailing weather conditions.
In Montana, a wind-blown wildfire destroyed up to 20 structures, including several homes, the Lake County Chief reported. A mandatory evacuation notice was issued on Sunday morning as the so-called Boulder Fire blew up a freeway. The blaze spread to more than a square mile on Saturday night and was brought under 0% control.
Meanwhile, air quality alerts due to smoke remained in effect Monday for parts of the Northwest Interior, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming and the upper Midwest, the National Weather Service said.
Wildfires emit huge volumes of microscopic smoke particles which researchers believe can be harmful if inhaled and cause both immediate and long-term health problems. Children, the elderly, and people with underlying health conditions are especially at risk.
Contributors: Jorge Ortiz and Elinor Aspegren, USA TODAY; The Associated Press