PORTLAND, Oregon (AP) – Wildfires in the American West, including one in Oregon which is currently the largest in the United States, create hazy skies as far away as New York City as massive underworld spits smoke and ash in the air in columns up to six miles high.
The skies over New York City were hazy on Tuesday as strong winds blew smoke across eastern California, Oregon, Montana and other states. Oregon’s Bootleg Fire has grown to 606 square miles (1,569 square kilometers), half the size of Rhode Island.
Fires have also multiplied on both sides of the Sierra Nevada in California. In Alpine County, the so-called California Alps, the Tamarack fire caused the evacuation of several communities and reached 61 square miles (158 square kilometers) without containment. The Dixie Fire, near the site of the deadly Paradise blaze in 2018, measured over 163 square kilometers (90 square miles) and threatened tiny communities in the Feather River Valley area.
The smoke on the east coast of the United States was reminiscent of last fall when several large fires that burned through Oregon during the state’s worst fire season in recent memory suffocated local skies with smoke from pea soup, but also had an impact on air quality several thousand kilometers away.
“We see a lot of fires producing a tremendous amount of smoke, and… by the time the smoke reaches the eastern part of the country where it’s usually cleared up, there’s 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.” In the last couple of years we’ve seen this phenomenon. “
Tony Galvez fled the Tamarack, California fire on Tuesday with his daughter at the last minute and later found his home was missing.
“I lost my whole life, everything I ever had. The children are what will count, ”he said, responding to calls from his relatives. “I had three teenagers. They will return home to a lunar landscape.
The Oregon Fire ravaged the southern part of the state and spread for up to 4 miles per day, driven by gusts of wind and extremely dry weather that transformed trees and undergrowth in powder keg.
Fire crews had to withdraw from the flames for 10 consecutive days as fireballs leap from treetop to treetop, trees explode, embers fly past the fire to start new fires and, in some cases, the heat of hell creates its own weather of changing winds and dry lightning. Monstrous clouds of smoke and ash rose up to 6 miles into the sky and are visible over 100 air miles away.
The Fremont-Winema National Forest fire merged with a smaller fire nearby on Tuesday, and it repeatedly pierced a perimeter of treeless, fire-retardant land intended to stop its progress.
A weather warning with red flag indicating dangerous fire conditions was in effect until Tuesday and possibly longer. The fire is 30% contained.
“We’re in there for as long as it takes to safely contain this monster,” Incident Commander Rob Allen said.
At least 2,000 homes have been evacuated at one point during the fire and 5,000 more threatened. At least 70 houses and more than 100 outbuildings caught fire. Thick smoke suffocates the area where residents and wildlife have already faced months of drought and extreme heat. Nobody died.
Extremely dry conditions and heat waves linked to climate change have made forest fires more difficult to fight. Climate change has made the West much hotter and drier over the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and forest fires more frequent and destructive.
Authorities on Tuesday temporarily closed all recreational and public access to state-managed land in eastern Washington due to the fire hazard, starting Friday. The closure will affect approximately 2,260 square miles (5,853 square kilometers) of land.
The area on the northeast flank of the Bootleg Fire is in the ancestral homeland of the Klamath tribes, who used intentional and managed fire to keep the fuel charge low and prevent such explosive fires. The tribe lost their hunting, fishing and gathering rights in a lawsuit nearly 30 years ago, but the Lakes and Marshlands remain central to their culture and heritage.
The tribe, which regained federal recognition from the U.S. government in 1986 after losing it in the 1950s, worked alongside the nonprofit The Nature Conservancy to use planned fires in the landscape to lighten the forests of the Sycan swamp. The area of high altitude wetlands and forests is part of the tribe’s traditional homeland and burned down in the blaze this week.
“It’s so devastating. The fire burned many areas where I hunted with my father and brother and others who have since died, ”said Klamath Tribes President Don Gentry. “This is all of our Aboriginal territory and it will certainly have an impact on big game and cultural sites and resources. “
Associated Press video reporters Haven Daley in Alpine County, Calif., And David Martin in New York City contributed to this report.
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