HOUSTON (AP) – Wildfires in the American West, including one burning in Oregon that’s currently the largest in the U.S., are creating hazy skies as far away as New York as the massive infernos spew smoke and ash into the air in columns up to 6 miles (10 kilometers) high.
Skies over New York City were hazy Tuesday as strong winds blew smoke east from California, Oregon, Montana and other states. Oregon’s Bootleg Fire grew to 616 square miles (1,595 square kilometers) – half the size of Rhode Island.
West Coast fires
Fires also grew on both sides of California’s Sierra Nevada. In Alpine County, the so-called California Alps, the Tamarack Fire caused evacuations of several communities and grew to 61 square miles (158 square kilometers) with no containment. The Dixie Fire, near the site of 2018’s deadly Paradise Fire, was more than 90 square miles (163 square kilometers) and threatened tiny communities in the Feather River Valley region.
Air quality Index
The smoke on the U.S. East Coast was reminiscent of last fall when multiple large fires burning in Oregon in the state’s worst fire season in recent memory choked the local skies with pea-soup smoke but also impacted air quality several thousand miles away.
“We’re seeing lots of fires producing a tremendous amount of smoke, and … by the time that smoke gets to the eastern portion of the country where it’s usually thinned out, there’s just so much smoke in the atmosphere from all these fires that it’s still pretty thick,” said David Lawrence, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “Over the last two years we’ve seen this phenomenon.”
Tony Galvez fled the Tamarack Fire in California on Tuesday with his daughter at the last minute and found out later that his home was gone.
The Associated Press contributed to this developing report.