US EXPLAINER: As wildlife smoke spreads, who's at risk?
Fire ants, Elvis Presley Lake, flash flood rescue: News from around our 50 states
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BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Smoke from wildfires in the western U.S. and Canada is blanketing much of the continent, including thousands of miles away on the East Coast. And experts say the phenomenon is becoming more common as human-caused global warming stokes bigger and more intense blazes.
Pollution from smoke reached unhealthy levels this week in communities from Washington state to Washington D.C.
Wildfires rage in the West, destroy homes in small California community
The wild Dixie fire continues to spread and devour homes across California as the state struggles to contain over half a dozen large fires. The state’s largest fire has already consumed more than 181,000 acres since it started on July 14. Fire officials say that the blaze is about 20% contained as limited access continues to hamper containment efforts. The Dixie fire is not the only blaze that has troubled the West Coast state: Nine fires have continued to burn in various counties, according to Cal Fire. The earliest fire, the Lava fire, started on June 24 in Siskiyou County and has burned around 26,000 acres.
Get used to it, researchers say.
“These fires are going to be burning all summer,” said University of Washington wildfire smoke expert Dan Jaffe. “In terms of bad air quality, everywhere in the country is to going to be worse than average this year.”
Growing scientific research points to potential long-term health damage from breathing in microscopic particles of smoke. Authorities have scrambled to better protect people from the harmful effects but face challenges in communicating risk to vulnerable communities and people who live very far away from burning forests.
WHY SO MUCH SMOKE AND HOW DANGEROUS IS IT?
Decades of aggressive fire fighting allowed dead trees and other fuels to build up in forests. Now climate change is drying the landscape, making it easier for fires to ignite and spread even as more people move into fire-prone areas.
Wildfires are decimating the West and choking the East — it's time for solutions
As much of the West burns and heat waves continue to scorch parts of the country, the worst partisan politics in recent memory seems to have paralyzed our capacity to prepare and respond to major threats to humanity — from a surging pandemic to devastating climate-linked crises. It's not too late to alter our policies and turn things around, but time is running out. Is anyone listening?Dr. Irwin Redlener (@IrwinRedlenerMD) is the founding director, National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University's Earth Institute as well as professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and a senior research scholar.
The number of unhealthy air quality days recorded in 2021 by pollution monitors nationwide is more than double the number to date in each of the last two years, according to figures provided to the Associated Press by the Environmental Protection Agency. Wildfires likely are driving much of the increase, officials said.
The amount of smoke wildfires spew stems directly from how much land burns — more than 4,100 square miles (10,600 square kilometers) in the U.S. and 4,800 square miles (12,500 square kilometers) in Canada so far in 2021. That’s behind the 10-year average for this time of year for both nations, but forecasters warn conditions could worsen as a severe drought afflicting 85% of the West intensifies.
Why Kenyans are suing the British army
Some 1,000 people are going to court after a fire destroyed 12,000 acres of land at a wildlife sanctuary.Despite all the publicity over the fire in March, his death has not previously been acknowledged.
Wildfire smoke contains hundreds of chemical compounds, and many can be harmful in large doses. Health officials use the concentration of smoke particles in the air to gauge the severity of danger to the public.
In bad fire years over the past decade, infernos across the West emitted more than a million tons of the particles annually, according to U.S. Forest Service research.
Scientists link smoke exposure with long-term health problems including decreased lung function, weakened immune systems and higher rates of flu. In the short term, vulnerable people can be hospitalized and sometimes die from excessive smoke, according to physicians and public health officials.
The 2018 fire in Paradise, California that killed 85 people and torched 14,000 houses also generated a thick plume blanketing portions of Northern California for weeks. Smoke from burning houses and buildings contains more toxic plastics and other manufactured materials as well as chemicals stored in garages.
Family Cat Finds 60-Pound Mountain Lion Under Deck of Home Near Denver
Wildlife officials said the animal was around two years old and may have been looking for shade or a source of food. Authorities said the animal's body was in good condition when it was discovered. "The reason we chose to go hands-on with this mountain lion was because it was so deep in the heart of the city," Area Wildlife Manager Matt Martinez said in a statement. "We are glad this operation worked out so smoothly for that neighborhood and for the mountain lion. We'd like to thank the Englewood Police Department and Code Enforcement for assisting us in getting that lion out safely.
WHERE ARE THE FIRES?
Almost 80 large wildfires are now burning across the U.S., including 19 in Montana. The largest —That’s half the size of Rhode Island, yet fewer than 200 houses and other structures have been confirmed as lost because the fire is burning in a sparsely populated area.
More than 200 fires are burning in Manitoba and Ontario, according to Canadian officials.
Weather patterns and fire intensity determine who gets hit by smoke. Huge fires generate so much heat that they can produce their own clouds that funnel smoke high into the atmosphere.
“It just carries across the country and slowly spreads out, forming sort of this haze layer in the sky,” said meteorologist Miles Bliss with the National Weather Service in Medford, Oregon.
So-called smoke shade from other wildfires helps crews fight biggest U.S. blaze
So-called smoke shade from other wildfires helps crews fight biggest U.S. blaze(Reuters) - Scores of wildfires raging across the Western United States' forest and scrub have belched so much smoke that it is helping an army of firefighters gain ground on the nation's biggest blaze, Oregon's Bootleg fire, by blocking sunlight, officials said on Saturday.
The combined plume from Canada and the U.S. largely passed over parts of the Midwest this week before settling to ground level across an area that stretches from Ohio northeast to New England and south to the Carolinas, air pollution data shows.
Health effects can occurThe smoke loses its tell-tale odor but remains a potential hazard even when it drifts that far, said Jeff Pierce, an atmospheric scientist at Colorado State University.
“It's certainly unhealthy,” Pierce said of the air along the East Coast in recent days. “If you have asthma or any sort of respiratory condition, you want to be thinking about changing your plans if you're going to be outside.”
People who live close to fires are more likely to be prepared and take precautions, while those who live farther away unwittingly remain exposed, according to a recent study by Colorado State University epidemiologist Sheryl Magzamen and Pierce.
HOW DO I PROTECT MYSELF?
Listen for warnings about smoke and, if advised, avoid outdoor activities to reduce exposure. Keep doors and windows closed, and run an air filter to clean inside air. Face masks can protect against breathing in smoke. As with COVID-19, most effective are N95 masks because they are designed to block the smallest particles.
An online,launched by the EPA and the U.S. Forest Service last year on a pilot basis has drawn millions of viewers. To reach people more quickly, officials are considering using mobile phone push notifications that would alert users when heavy smoke could inundate their communities, according to agency spokeswoman Enesta Jones.
Associated Press reporter Julie Walker contributed from New York.
Follow Matthew Brown on Twitter: @MatthewBrownAP
Overnight Health Care: Biden officials says no change to masking guidance right now | Missouri Supreme Court rules in favor of Medicaid expansion | Mississippi's attorney general asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade .
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