Hot, dry conditions to hinder Brian Head Fire containment efforts

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The scorching heat, low humidity and bone-dry conditions that have been fanning the Brian Head Fire in southwestern Utah since June 17 show no signs of letting up through the upcoming weekend.

Vegetation will continue to dry out under the blazing sun, countering containment efforts and hindering attempts to fully extinguish the flames.

The Brian Head Fire is only one of nearly three dozen large wildfires currently raging across the West, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. This is up from about two dozen last week.

Over 68,000 acres of land have been scorched by the Brian Head Fire alone, and nearly 225,000 acres in the United States are currently under siege from the raging wildfires. Ten Western states are currently reporting active large fires.

Fire crews have made significant progress on containing the Brian Head Fire since last week, with 75 percent of the blaze now under control.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature will not aid firefighters in their quest to fully contain the blaze through the weekend, with the fire projected to spread to the east and northeast of its current perimeter.

“As firefighters continue to battle the Brian Head Fire, the weather will not change very much over the next several days as hot and dry conditions continue to work against fire crews,” according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Ryan Adamson.

However, Adamson added that there is the chance for widely separated thunderstorms each afternoon through the weekend, especially in the higher elevations.

Because humidity values are not expected to rise significantly until next week, any rain that develops high up in thunderstorm clouds may have a difficult time reaching the ground.

“Any thunderstorms will likely be more of a hindrance than a help as most of the activity will produce lightning and gusty winds but little, if any, in the way of rainfall,” Adamson said.

Although the Brian Head Fire was human-induced, any dry lightning strikes threaten to ignite additional blazes and exacerbate ongoing ones.

The Brian Head Fire has been responsible for the temporary closure of Brian Head and Panguitch Lakes, although these have now been reopened. Utah state officials estimate that the cost of fighting the blaze could exceed $20 million.

It may not be until at least mid-July before firefighters fully contain the destructive fire.

High temperatures reaching 15-20 degrees above mid-summer normals will continue to bake the Intermountain West into early next week before monsoonal moisture finally begins to surge northward into the Four Corners region, helping to douse ongoing fires and moisten parched vegetation.