Dozens of wildfires are still burning across the West, a few of them now covering more than 100,000 acres each. The largest one reported to InciWeb, the National Fire Information Center’s website, is the Bootleg fire in southern Oregon. It was about 364,000 acres in size as of Monday evening — bigger than New York City — and only 30% contained.

Persistent drought and dry thunderstorms will keep the risk of new wildfire development elevated in a large part of the Northwest and portions of the northern Plains.

The National Weather Service still has red flag warnings posted for northeastern California, the eastern half of Oregon, much of eastern Washington, all of Idaho, western and northern Wyoming, as well as southern and eastern Montana.

All of these areas have been in various levels of drought for months, and 99% of the West is in a drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Along with the extremely dry ground, relative humidity will be very low for at least the next two days. Although thunderstorms will be scattered across the region, the lower atmosphere will be too dry to support meaningful rainfall in many spots. However, lightning from these storms could spark new fires.

Winds will be gusty, even where storms don’t develop. But outflow winds near thunderstorms will be the strongest, possibly gusting to 50 mph. This may help new and existing fires spread out of control.

Truckers may run into thick smoke and poor air quality in places like Boise, Idaho; Pendleton, Oregon; Spokane, Washington; Missoula, Helena, Cut Bank and Great Falls, Montana; in addition to Riverton and Sheridan, Wyoming.

Along with the fire weather conditions, temperatures will stay very hot from eastern Montana to northeastern Wyoming. Highs Tuesday through Thursday will again reach the upper 90s to near 105 degrees in places like Sheridan, Wyoming, as well as Billings, Glendive, Glasgow and Miles City, Montana. An excessive heat warning remains in place for these areas.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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