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Threat of wildfires in Malheur County grows as fuels dry, storms track in

By Les Zaitz

The Enterprise

Federal fire officials are predicting an above-normal risk for significant wildfires in southeast Oregon through August.

That forecast, issued last week, took on added urgency Monday as Malheur County braced for days of thunderstorms across dry rangelands ripe for lightning strikes.

The threat could be compounded by this weekend, when a weather front bringing strong winds may swing through the region. Winds can cause explosive growth of any range fires triggered by lightning or humans.

Each month, the National Interagency Fire Center issues its monthly wildfire outlook for the country. Its Aug. 1 report said there is higher than usual chance of major wildfires in August or September.

“Areas with the great potential for significant large fire activity will be the grasslands and rangelands of the Pacific Northwest east of the Cascades,” the report said.

The report noted rainfall has been below normal and . . .