As summer's arid grip on the Western states continues to expand, fire protection agencies in Missoula County have responded by increasing the fire danger to high.

Monday's increase in the fire danger was the first since June 30, when officials increased the danger to moderate.

Since then, precipitation has dwindled and hot, dry conditions have expanded their reach.

“Spring and early summer rains have provided us with plenty of grasses and ‘flashy’ fuels that are now starting to dry and cure, increasing the likelihood of a fire-start growing quickly and becoming a much more complex, larger wildfire," said Colt Mortenson, Lolo National Forest fire staff officer.

When the fire danger is high, dry grasses and needles ignite easily and fires can spread rapidly and may be difficult to control. Unattended campfires are likely to escape, and high intensity burning is likely to occur on slopes and concentrated grassy areas.

Already, a number of fires are burning across the state. On Sunday, the Missoula Rural Fire District and Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, among other agencies, responded to a fire south of Missoula in Grant Creek.

Fireworks were reported in the area.

On average, fire officials said Monday, three out of every four wildfires in Missoula County are human caused.