Extreme Weather to Blame for AZ Fire - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Extreme Weather to Blame for AZ Fire

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MISSOULA -

Dry fire fuels, low humidity, and a 180-degree shift in the wind's direction were the dangerous conditions that led to the deaths of the 19 Arizona hot shots.

Fire agency meteorologists said in Arizona, monsoon thunderstorms often bring rain that slowly helps end their fire season.

However, in the case of the Yarnell Hill Wildfire, meteorologists suspect a thunderstorm "broke" nearby, leading 40-mile-per-hour gusts that rapidly switched the wind's direction, which caught the hot shots off guard.

Missoula meteorologists said a quick change in weather elements can affect any fire in any region, like an incident several years ago during the Gash Creek fire in the Bitterroot Valley.

"They had a thunderstorm form nearby, after the crews had been demobilized, and it collapsed and created those outflow winds that blew the fire back up and outside of its containment lines, so these thunderstorms are very, very dangerous things, not only because of lightning, but because of the winds," said Bryan Henry, meteorologist at the Northern Rockies Coordination Center.

Arizona state agencies are still investigating how the wildfire killed the 19 hot shots, and 500 fire fighters are still battling the blaze.

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