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Heat to Ease in Northwest, but Fire Threat Remains

The scorching heat that has gripped the Northwest for much of July is finally coming to an end. However, danger still looms for many.

The lengthy period of extreme heat, known as a heat wave, has turned the Northwest into a tinder box.

"Temperatures east of the Cascades are running 8 to 10 degrees above normal so far in July," according to Senior Meteorologist Ken Clark.

The unusual heat factored in with the dry climate has left much of the region susceptible to wildfires.

Several major wildfires continue to rage across the Northwest, including the Carlton Complex in Washington.

As of Saturday morning, at least 100 homes have been destroyed from this fire near Pateros, Washington, reported the Associated Press.

As of midday Friday, the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center reported that a total of 157,600 acres had been burned and that the fire was zero percent contained.

A MODIS satellite captures the fires in across Washington from above on July 17, 2014. Enlarge (Photo: NASA)

Mandatory evacuations have been lifted across northern California from the Bully Fire, but evacuation advisories remain in effect, according to the California government. A total of 12,661 acres has burned with 56% of the fire being contained as of Friday evening.

Wildfires continue to spread across Oregon as well. "Fifteen large fires were reported throughout Oregon on Friday," cited the Associated Press.

The recent hot and dry weather pattern extended into much of western Canada as well, where numerous wildfires are ongoing.

Most of these fires originated due to lightning strikes from nearby thunderstorms.

Although typical thunderstorms tend to bring relief in the form of rain, these storms have done more harm than good.

Due to extremely dry conditions in the lower part of the atmosphere, most of the rain from these storms evaporated before reaching the ground. These storms are referred to as dry thunderstorms. Frequent lightning still occurs however, which is what makes them dangerous.

The threat for dry thunderstorms will continue through the weekend and into early next week across Nevada, Idaho, and Oregon. As a result, more wildfires may be ignited, putting many more lives and property at risk.

Firefighters will be fighting with gusty winds over the next few days which will surely only help to fuel the fires even more.

Temperatures will be on the downward trend through early next week across the Northwest which will provide some help. The heat that has been locked into the region is expected to shift into the northern Plains.

Along with the heat, smoke from the wildfires in the Northwest will also invade the Plains.

Hazy skies have already been observed the past few days from the Northwest to the Great Lakes, partly due to other wildfires located in the Northwest Territories of Canada.

"While mostly in remote areas, these fires are producing considerable smoke that has caused a health risk for people around the town of Yellowknife," said Clark.

Sensitive groups across the northern United States may be affected from the increase in smoke and may want to limit time spent outside.