Crews battling dozens of wildfires across the parched U.S. West, including Montana, will face tinderbox conditions that could stoke more blazes this weekend, forecasters said.
Red flag warnings have been issued in northern Montana, northern California, southern Oregon and northeastern Utah. Forecasters expect temperatures to rise above 90 degrees with wind gust at 50 miles per hour in parts of the region, the National Weather Service said in advisories.
Six fires in Montana were listed as active by the National Interagency Coordination Center on Saturday, including the Slide Rock Fire near Rock Creek on the Missoula Ranger District.
That blaze, which sparked on July 13 and is believed to be lightning caused, has grown to 40 acres and has prompted several trail closure.
“Strong and gusty afternoon winds again yesterday pushed the fire slightly to the northeast, but there was no significant fire growth,” said Boyd Hartwig with the Missoula Ranger District. “The fire area has heavy spotting and is in remote and inaccessible terrain with heavy timber.”
The Little Hogback Fire also continues to burn three miles southeast of the Bitterroot Flat Campground and remains at five acres.
On Thursday evening, crews were battling 43 large fires that were out of control across the U.S. West, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center.
The hot, dry forecast comes after firefighters made gains in California on several blazes, including the so-called Wall fire, which had damaged or destroyed 44 homes in Butte County and more than 60 other structures.
Evacuation orders have been lifted for about 4,000 people as firefighters have cut containment lines around 85 percent of the blaze, according to the Cal Fire website.
Flames have charred more than twice as much land mass in California so far in 2017 than a year earlier, according to a Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman.
With the fire danger moving into the “very high” category, Missoula County commissioners have declared a state of emergency in an effort to prepare resources and authorities for the wildland fire season.
Reuters also contributed to this story.