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Wildfire threat ramps up across West as temperatures soar next week

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The ever-present threat of wildfires will ramp up as we head into next week across the southwestern United States.

Temperatures in cities like Los Angeles and Las Vegas will start off a touch below normal over the weekend, but will skyrocket by Tuesday and Wednesday of the upcoming week.

An unsettled weather pattern over the region will trigger scattered thunderstorms and rain showers Saturday and Sunday, especially across the higher terrain.

While the rain and storms will help dampen the region a bit, there is still a high likelihood of thunder and lightning.

It only takes one lightning strike to ignite a forest fire and in a part of the country still experiencing extreme drought conditions, the conditions are prime for fires.

"Fuels continue to remain dry across the Southwest, and fires in the past month or two have already proved that under the right weather conditions wildfire activity can quickly get out of hand," AccuWeather Meteorologist Evan Duffey said.

Trees, grass and brush that have a low level of moisture can serve as fuel and easily catch on fire.

The weather will only become more conducive to wildfire ignition and development as the week goes on.

"Heading into the middle to latter part of next week a large ridge of high pressure will build across the Rockies. This will put a lid on most shower and thunderstorm activity and cause temperatures to soar, which will dry out the vegetation," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Krissy Pydynowski said.

Any showers or thunderstorms that manage to develop, mainly on the outer edge of the ridge, for example near Yellowstone, would produce little rainfall but plenty of lightning.

The position of the jet stream, position generally from northern California to Manitoba, will also cause gusty winds to develop daily in the Great Basin later next week, which could easily spread any new or existing wildfires where the vegetation has dried out, Pydynowski added.

Vegetation in places like the Great Basin may be a bit more moist, thanks to the rainfall this weekend. However, as the week progresses and the winds blow, the Great Basin will once again dry out and the wildfire risk will heighten.