Wildfire season is here across the West. While the map may look impressive, fire behavior and the number of fires are fairly typical for this time of year. The number of fires emitting smoke will result in hazy/smoky skies and the potential for air quality issues. Current wildfires in Montana include the July Fire (11,000 acres) near Zortman, Blue Ridge Fire (3,000 acres) near Fort Peck Lake, Lazier Creek Fire in Sanders County, Coulee and Lelig fires near Jordan, Chimney Creek Fire east of Billings, Mile Marker 4 Fire east of Miles City and the largest in the state is the Tongue River Fire (28,000 acres) near the Wyoming border.
Another heat wave will develop for the rest of the week into the weekend. After a few days with highs in the 70s and 80s, the 90s and 100s are back for Thursday. Southwest winds will pick up to around 20mph and humidity values will drop below 20%, making for a dangerous fire weather day. An isolated storm or three will pop over the southwestern mountains late in the day. Friday will be equally as hot, with highs well up into the 90s to around 100. The wind will be light, which will take a slight edge off the fire danger. Saturday will likely be the hottest day in this latest heat wave. Highs will be around 100, and eastern Montana will come close to 105. Southwest winds will kick up to around 20mph in the afternoon, so the fire danger will once again be peaking. Scattered thunderstorms will develop in the afternoon and evening offering some cooling rain but also lightning strikes that could create more wildfires. Sunday, a cool front will move through the state with scattered thunderstorms keeping the temperatures down in the 90s. Gusty west winds up to 30mph+ will develop in the afternoon, so fire danger will remain high. Slightly cooler air will move in for early next week, with highs down in the 80s ending this latest heat wave.