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Wildfires burning west coast create nationwide air pollution

The explosive forest fires in the West threaten millions of Americans with potential health problems. Smoke from these fires spread across the country, causing air quality levels to plummet.

The Pacific Gas and Electric Company has announced that it is burying 10,000 miles of power lines in what is described as the largest infrastructure project in California history. PG&E pledged to bury 10,000 miles of its power lines after its equipment eventually hit the Dixie Fire near the town of Paradise.

From the ground and the sky, crews fight the flames of the Tamarack fire, located south of Lake Tahoe. The fire is 0% contained and has developed, crossing state lines into Nevada.

Extreme heat and drought created powder magazine conditions in southwestern Oregon, where the Bootleg Fire burned more than 394,000 acres. Teams from Arkansas, Nevada and Alaska join more than 2,000 people fighting the blaze there.

As of Wednesday evening, 78 active forest fires were burning in the West. The fires on the West Coast, coupled with the wildfires in Canada, blanket much of the United States with noxious smoke affecting air quality and triggering health alerts thousands of miles away. At New York, thick clouds of smoke could be seen across the Manhattan skyline.

“If the fires are more frequent, if they are more intense, we could very well see more events like this,” said Greg Pope, professor of environmental studies at Montclair State University.

Wildfires burning west coast create nationwide air pollution
The Manhattan skyline on July 21, 2021.

Spencer Platt / Getty

Researchers say that inhaling fine particles, released by forest fires, can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

A study by UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography found that smoke from fires becomes nearly four times more toxic as it travels due to a chemical reaction that occurs in the atmosphere. Doctors say a simple way to protect yourself is to wear an N-95 mask.


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