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Forecasters predict big summer and fall wildfires for Southwest

The charred remains of cabin is shown Friday, June 30, 2017, in Brian Head, Utah. Hundreds of people forced from their southern Utah homes near the country's largest active wildfire headed home Friday and prepared for a subdued Fourth of July celebration after nearly two weeks of fear and uncertainty. (Jordan Allred/The Spectrum & Daily News, via AP)

Utah, Arizona and other parts of the Southwest could face more big wildfires this summer and fall, while hot and dry weather has also put the northern Great Plains at risk, forecasters said Saturday.

The National Interagency Fire Center’s four-month outlook showed elevated danger of significant fires in parts of Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah, as well as eastern Montana and the western Dakotas.

Fire danger also remains high on the Big Island of Hawaii for the duration of the forecast, which covers July through October.

A fire in southern Utah has burned 94 square miles (244 square kilometers) and was 60 percent contained Saturday. The blaze was human-caused and began June 15, fire managers said. Some evacuation orders were lifted Friday.

A lightning-caused fire in northern Arizona burned 40 square miles (105 square kilometers) and was 44 percent contained.

A complex of lightning-caused grass fires in Washington state had burned 73 square miles (190 square kilometers). They ranged from 74 to 100 percent contained.

Other fires were burning in California, Colorado and New Mexico.

Conditions appeared bleak in the northern Great Plains, but no major wildfires were burning in the region Saturday, according to the federal government’s InciWeb fire information system. The U.S. Drought Monitor map issued Thursday showed almost all of North and South Dakota and the eastern half of Montana ranging from abnormally dry to extreme drought.

Eastern Montana and western North Dakota received less than half their normal rainfall in June, the National Interagency Fire Center said.

The wildfire outlook was better for Northwest, the Midwest and the eastern half of the nation, forecasters said.

They predicted below-normal danger for most of the South and southern Florida through August. Below-normal danger was also expected in September and October in south Texas and a swath from northern Mississippi to southwestern Pennsylvania.

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