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WEST'S FOREST FIRES MAY BLAZE UNTIL THE RAINS OF AUTUMN

A large chunk of the West will continue to be plagued by forest fires for another month or two, the National Weather Service says.

Though recent rainshowers have helped firefighters douse or control a substantial number of Western fires, crews are still battling large blazes in California, Idaho, Montana and Washington."There's not much hope of ending California's fires until the rainy season begins in November," said NWS long-range forecaster Huug van den Dool.

After its seventh sub-par November-to-March rainy season in the past eight years, California has been baked by a hot, dry summer that turned the state into an outdoor tinder box. The result is scores of fires, including two big-gies in the high Sierras.

Currently, a large high pressure system is preventing Pacific moisture from easing California's drought, van den Dool noted, and the dryness very probably will continue during September and October.

California's current weather pattern does have one favorable aspect. It's preventing the Santa Ana winds that roar through central and southern California canyons and turn small fires into infernos.

The Pacific Northwest's fires may burn until early October, said Gary Bennett, an NWS meteorologist at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.

Bennett said the Pacific Northwest will get some light rainfall during September, but it won't be enough to quench the region's big blazes.

"There's not much chance of snuffing Idaho and Montana's fires until a big, wet rain system moves in from the Gulf of Alaska," he said. "That usually happens in October."

Bennett said the Northwest's fires are being fed by huge amounts of dry underbrush that accumulated during the past 10 years.

"The only good thing that happened in the Northwest was the rapid decline of dry lightning strikes," he said. "The thunderstorm season is just about over. That means the Northwest won't be getting new fires ignited by lightning strikes."