In eerie scenes reminiscent of Australia recent bushfire horror, smoke haze has blanketed most of the east of the US as large wildfires continue to rage in the country's west.
Strong winds blew smoke east from California, Oregon, Montana and other states all the way to other side of the continent, with haze lingering over New York City, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
NASA’s Micro-Pulse Lidar Network (MPLNET) and Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET) released data which shows the intensity of the soot still hanging around the east in recent days.
"Haze darkened skies and reddened sunsets, unleashed a rash of code red and orange air quality warnings, and even left the scent of smoke in the air in some areas," NASA's Earth Observatory said.
While the fires remain in the west of the US, NASA noted most of the smoke haze in the northeast of the US could be attributed to several fires burning across the border in Canada.
"Fires burning farther to the west in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest of the United States may have contributed a small amount of smoke as well," NASA said.
However, the smoke in New York City is pretty significant, as NASA's atmospheric scientist Ryan Stauffer pointed out the magnitude of the pollution in New York City hasn't been on this scale in more than a decade.
“One of the things about this event that makes it so remarkable is that the smoke is affecting such a large swath of the US,” said Jesse Berman, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and an expert on air quality.
“You’re not just seeing localised and perhaps upstate New York being affected, but rather you’re seeing numerous states all along the East Coast that are being impacted.”
Smoke outlook today through Sunday from the HRRR model. Wildfires to our southwest, especially the #DixieFire in northern CA, will continue sending smoke across the region. #IDwx #ORwx pic.twitter.com/x9XhVn9qwb
— NWS Boise (@NWSBoise) July 24, 2021
Fires rip through homes in California
Flames racing through rugged terrain in Northern California destroyed multiple homes Saturday (local time) as the state’s largest wildfire intensified and numerous other blazes battered the US West.
The Dixie fire, which started July 14, had already levelled over a dozen houses and other structures when it tore through the tiny community of Indian Falls after dark.
An updated damage estimate was not immediately available, though fire officials said the blaze has charred more than 181,000 acres in Plumas and Butte counties and was 20 per cent contained.
— craig philpott (@CphilpottCraig) July 23, 2021
The fire was burning in a remote area with limited access, hampering firefighters’ efforts as it charged eastward, fire officials said.
It has prompted evacuation orders in several small communities and along the west shore of Lake Almanor, a popular area getaway.
Images show the haze has resulted in reddened skies as NASA pointed out, which is reminiscent of images seen during Australia's own devastating bushfire season in the summer of 2019-2020.
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency for four northern counties because of wildfires that he said were causing “conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property.”
The proclamation opened the way for more state support.
Thousands work to contain 'sprawling' blaze
Meanwhile, the nation’s largest wildfire, southern Oregon’s Bootleg fire, was nearly halfway surrounded by Saturday (local time) as more than 2,200 crew members worked to corral it in the heat and wind, fire officials said.
The growth of the sprawling blaze had slowed, but thousands of homes remained threatened on its eastern side.
“This fire is resistant to stopping at dozer lines,” Jim Hanson, fire behaviour analyst, said in a news release from the Oregon Department of Forestry.
“With the critically dry weather and fuels we are experiencing, firefighters are having to constantly reevaluate their control lines and look for contingency options.”
Five firefighters were injured earlier in the week when swirling winds blew flames back on them as they worked on the Devil’s Creek fire burning in rough, steep terrain near the rural town of Jordan, in the northeast part of the state.
They remained hospitalised on the weekend. Bureau of Land Management spokesperson Mark Jacobsen declined to release the extent of their injuries.
Three of the firefighters are US Fish and Wildlife Service crew members from North Dakota, and the other two are US Forest Service firefighters from New Mexico.
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