Portland, Oregon – Smoke and ash from massive wildfires burning in the western United States clouded skies and triggered poor air quality alerts Wednesday over parts of the eastern coast of the United States, which is suffering from the effects of the conflagrations 4,023 kilometers (2,500 miles) away.
Strong winds carried smoke from California, Oregon, and Montana to the other end of the continent. New York City, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all reported haze.
The nation’s largest wildfire, in Oregon, grew to 1,595 square kilometers (616 square miles), just over half the size of Rhode Island. Fires are also burning at both ends of California’s Sierra Nevada, in Washington state and elsewhere in the west of the country.
The fact that the smoke has reached the east is reminiscent of what happened last fall, when huge fires that burned during the worst wildfire season in recent Oregon history blackened local skies but also affected air quality across several thousand miles away. So far this year, Seattle and Portland have largely been spared from poor air quality.
Residents of parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other eastern states suffering from heart disease, asthma and other health problems were advised to stay indoors. Poor air quality alerts in parts of the region will remain in effect through Thursday.
“One of the things that makes this event so remarkable is that the smoke is affecting such a large swath of the United States,” said Jesse Berman, associate professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and quality expert. from air. “You do not see such targeted impacts and that perhaps the northern part of New York State is being affected, but several states on the east coast are receiving the impact.”
David Lawrence, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the smoke from wildfires usually clears once it hits the east coast, but this summer “it’s still pretty thick.”
In California, a wildfire burning completely out of control south of Lake Tahoe crossed the state lines into Nevada. New voluntary evacuation orders were issued for parts of Douglas County, Nevada.
The Tamarack Fire, started by lightning in Alpine County, California, has destroyed more than 168 square kilometers (65 square miles). According to authorities, more than 1,200 firefighters are fighting the fire, which has destroyed at least 10 structures.
Meanwhile, Oregon on Wednesday banned all bonfires on state-administered land and on state land east of Interstate 5, a major highway that is often considered the dividing line between the west of the state, which is more humid. , and the more arid east.
The regulation includes areas where bonfires are usually allowed in camping areas, as well as the use of candles and tiki torches. The use of propane gas grills is still allowed, but the state urged campers to bring food that does not require heating or cooking.
The Oregon fire has wreaked havoc in the sparsely populated south of the state and has been expanding at about 6 kilometers (4 miles) a day, fueled by gusts of wind and arid climate that have turned the trees and bushes in a tinderbox.
The fire crews have had to withdraw from the flames for 10 consecutive days, as conditions are such that fireballs jump from the top of one tree to another, the trees explode, the embers fly to dry areas and generate new fires. and, in some cases, the infernal heat causes its own climate of changing winds and lightning.
The immense clouds of smoke and ash have reached heights of 10 kilometers (6 miles) and can be seen more than 161 kilometers (100 miles) away in the air.