The Western wildfire season that began during an unusually warm and dry March has stretched into September, and the weather is not expected to end it any time soon, AP reports. Hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes as fires rage in Washington, Montana, and Wyoming, and the National Weather Service has issued red-flag warnings for large swaths of the West amid continued high winds and temperatures.
Lightning sparked more than 70 fires in Washington state over the weekend, and rains that fell on the western part of the state after a 48-day dry spell failed to make it over the state's central Cascade mountains. Wildfires have burned more than 8.1 million acres across the West so far this year, millions more than average, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Experts at the center say the undergrowth that fuels wildfires has built up over years of mild fire seasons and moderate winters, and the hot, dry summer made things worse. (Read more wildfires stories.)