Massive wildfires in US West bring haze to East Coast

Jul 20, 2021, 9:08 PM | Updated: 10:24 pm
Smoke blocks the view looking toward Manhattan from Yankee Stadium before the Philadelphia Phillies...

Smoke blocks the view looking toward Manhattan from Yankee Stadium before the Philadelphia Phillies played the New York Yankees in a baseball game Tuesday, July 20, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

(AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

PORTLAND, Ore. (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 six miles 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 606 square miles (1,569 square kilometers) — half the size of Rhode Island.

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.

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.

“I lost my whole life, everything I’ve ever had. The kids are what’s going to matter,” he said as he fielded calls from relatives. “I got three teenagers. They’re going to go home to a moonscape.”

The Oregon fire has ravaged the southern part of the state and has been expanding by up to 4 miles (6 kilometers) a day, pushed by gusting winds and critically dry weather that’s turned trees and undergrowth into a tinderbox.

Fire crews have had to retreat from the flames for 10 consecutive days as fireballs jump from treetop to treetop, trees explode, embers fly ahead of the fire to start new blazes and, in some cases, the inferno’s heat creates its own weather of shifting winds and dry lightning. Monstrous clouds of smoke and ash have risen up to 6 miles into the sky and are visible for more than 100 air miles.

The fire in the Fremont-Winema National Forest merged with a smaller nearby blaze Tuesday, and it has repeatedly breached a perimeter of treeless dirt and fire retardant meant to stop its advance.

A red flag weather warning signifying dangerous fire conditions was in effect through Tuesday and possibly longer. The fire is 30% contained.

“We’re in this for as long as it takes to safely confine this monster,” Incident Commander Rob Allen said.

At least 2,000 homes have been evacuated at some point during the fire and another 5,000 threatened. At least 70 homes and more than 100 outbuildings have gone up in flames. Thick smoke chokes the area where residents and wildlife alike have already been dealing with months of drought and extreme heat. No one has died.

Extremely dry conditions and heat waves tied to climate change have made wildfires harder to fight. Climate change has made the West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.

On Tuesday, officials temporarily closed all recreational and public access to state-managed lands in eastern Washington due to fire danger, starting Friday. The closure will affect about 2,260 square miles (5,853 square kilometers) of land.

The area on the northeastern flank of the Bootleg Fire is in the ancestral homeland of the Klamath Tribes, which have used intentional, managed fire to keep the fuel load low and prevent such explosive blazes. The tribe lost its hunting, fishing and gathering rights in a court case nearly 30 years ago but the area of lakes and marshes remains central to their culture and heritage.

The tribe, which regained its federal recognition from the U.S. government in 1986 after losing it in the 1950s, has worked alongside the nonprofit organization The Nature Conservancy to use planned fires on the landscape to thin forests in the Sycan Marsh. The area of wetland and high-elevation forest is part of the tribe’s traditional homeland and burned in the blaze this week.

“It’s so devastating. The fire burned through a lot of area where I’ve hunted with my father and brother and other folks who have since passed away,” said Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry. “It’s all our aboriginal territory and it’s certainly going to impact big game and cultural sites and resources.”

____

Associated Press Video Journalists Haven Daley in Alpine County, California and David Martin in New York City contributed to this report.

___

Follow Flaccus on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/gflaccus

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

3 injured in shooting at amusement park near Chicago

GURNEE, Ill. (AP) — Three people were injured late Sunday in a shooting at an amusement park north of Chicago. Three people were hurt in a parking lot outside Six Flags Great America in Gurnee when shots were fired from a vehicle, according to a spokesperson for the park, which is located about 45 miles […]
20 hours ago
A motorist pumps gasoline at United Oil gas station in Los Angeles Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. The avera...
Associated Press

Average US gasoline price falls 45 cents to $4.10 per gallon

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) — The average U.S. price of regular-grade gasoline plummeted 45 cents over the past three weeks to $4.10 per gallon. Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg of the Lundberg Survey said Sunday that the continued decline comes as crude oil costs also remain low. “The drop of a dollar per gallon has not been […]
20 hours ago
FILE - Actress Anne Heche poses for a portrait to promote the film, "The Last Word" during the Sund...
Associated Press

Anne Heche, star with troubled life, dies of crash injuries

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Anne Heche, the Emmy-winning film and television actor whose dramatic Hollywood rise in the 1990s and accomplished career contrasted with personal chapters of turmoil, died of injuries from a fiery car crash. She was 53. Heche was “peacefully taken off life support,” spokeswoman Holly Baird said in a statement Sunday night.. […]
20 hours ago
FILE - An iPhone displays the Facebook app in New Orleans, Aug. 11, 2019. Facebook failed to detect...
Associated Press

Strike four: Facebook misses election misinfo in Brazil ads

Facebook failed to detect blatant election-related misinformation in ads ahead of Brazil’s 2022 election, a new report from Global Witness has found, continuing a pattern of not catching material that violates its policies the group describes as “alarming.” The advertisements contained false information about the country’s upcoming election, such as promoting the wrong election date, […]
20 hours ago
A Japanese flag flutters at the Bank of Japan headquarters in Tokyo on July 29, 2022. Japan’s eco...
Associated Press

Japan ekes out growth as consumers splurge amid COVID surge

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s economy grew at an annual rate of 2.2% for the April-June quarter from the previous quarter, the government said Monday, as consumer spending rebounded with COVID-19 restrictions getting gradually lifted. Japan’s gross domestic product, or GDP, the sum of the value of a nation’s products and services, expanded 0.5% from January-March, […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Second fatal shooting this month near George Floyd Square

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — One man died and another was seriously hurt in the second fatal shooting this month near the intersection where George Floyd died in police custody more than two years earlier. Minneapolis Police spokesman Officer Garrett Parten said officers found two wounded men with life-threatening injuries Sunday afternoon near the intersection in south […]
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
...
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Massive wildfires in US West bring haze to East Coast