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Fox News Weather Center

Above-Normal, Costly Wildfire Season Forecast for the West

California needs rain to help break a years-long drought, but some of the storms that could form this summer may spark more wildfires in the West.

More than 50 Western wildfires were caused by lightning since May 30, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Above-normal wildfire conditions are expected through at least September, the National Interagency Fire Center said.

In September and especially October, things will start to change and an increase moisture heading toward the wet season may help firefighters, but before then, the storms will cause more problems than help, AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok said.

Dry thunderstorms will be a problem across the region.

"They are dry because they are driven by mid- to upper-level moisture and not deep, low-level moist connection," Pastelok said. "Therefore, the base of these storms are higher than normal and precipitation evaporates before reaching the ground. However, you can still get lightning and the strikes are what ignites the fires and the wind kicked up by these storms helps spread the fires."

The Northwest will continue to see occasional upper-level systems come across and produce dry thunderstorms over the higher elevations through the rest of the month, Pastelok said.

"In July, Washington and southwestern Canada should be drier, but there can still be some of these upper-level systems rolling across Oregon, northern California and Idaho," he said. "This will most definitely trigger more fires."

In the Southwest, there will not be much rain in June and July, Pastelok said. However, there could be some rain in August and September, but it may not help too much. Storms could again ignite spotty fires, Pastelok added.

The only thing that can save southern areas is tropical moisture from the eastern Pacific right now; this is a higher chance for Arizona and New Mexico, he said.

No matter how busy or slow the season may be, wildfire firefighting is a very dangerous operation.

"Wildfire firefighting is much more physically demanding then structural firefighting. For structural firefighting you are driven right up onto the scene and spend short but intense bursts of effort. Fighting wildfires often requires a good deal of hiking due to the remote nature of the great outdoors, and some fires require firefighters to be dropped in via parachute or helicopter to reach remote fires," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Evan Duffey, who is a Pennsylvania volunteer firefighter.

"Wildland firefighting is about removing fuels, by cutting a line in the fuels around the fire perimeter and back burning into the active fire. It has many intrinsic dangers, including getting burned over (when the fire front overruns firefighters), heat-related illness, falling trees and poisonous reptiles and insects," Duffey said.

A busy wildfire season may mean another costly year for the federal government.

The recent federal forecast indicated there is a 90 percent chance that this year's fire suppression costs - for the U.S. Forest Service - will be between $810 million and $1.62 billion, and that such efforts may cost the Interior Department between $281 million and $475 billion.

Fire suppression costs were $1.52 billion in 2014, the federal government said.