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'Double-barrel' conditions of wind, dry air feed wildfires' fury

Hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes as wildfires burn across the Western U.S. in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Oregon, and California. Officials are saying it could be the worst fire season in a century. NBC's Gabe Gutierrez reports.

What may already be the worst fire season for parts of the West is only going to get worse.

Thursday morning, The National Weather Service issued a red-flag warning for thousands of square miles in five states as windy, dry conditions persist to fuel fires in the area.

A red-flag warning is posted when a combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures create extreme fire growth potential.

“The conditions are not friendly for fighting fires,” said Tom Moore, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel. “It makes it easy for fires to happen because we’ve got that double-barrel problem of dry air and wind.”

Thursday is projected to be especially dangerous. As the day dawned, there were already 19 “large incident” fires burning throughout the four-corner state region of Utah-Colorado-Arizona-New Mexico, according to NBC Meteorologist Bill Karins. Winds are forecast to pick up to 40 mph later in the afternoon.

This fire season is especially bad for areas like New Mexico and Colorado as well as parts of California. Moore said drought-like conditions and a minimal chance of rain in the area make it just right for more dangerous fires.

“This problem is going to get a whole lot worse,” he said. “The conditions are so prone to having fires start and then all you need is windy conditions to have them spread. I think we’re going to be dealing with this all summer long in this region.”

Blazes have already destroyed thousands of acres, forced hundreds of families to evacuate their homes and hospitalized some people for heat-related illnesses.

And that’s not the only bad news for the area. Moore said he thinks the fire season, which usually lasts the summer months of June to September, has gotten longer over the past few years.

“We’re fair game for these fires now from April to November,” he said.

Dry conditions fuel blazes in the U.S.

Related:

Latest California fire gains strength, threatens hundreds of  homes

California officials warn fire season could be worst in 100 years