Massive Wildfires Burn Across the American West; Choking Smoke Spreads Across the U.S.
Dozens of wildfires are burning across the Western United States and adjacent Canada, having already consumed well over a million acres in total. Unusually hot and dry weather in the last few months has led to dangerous fire-prone conditions across the region. Now lightning associated with dry monsoonal thunderstorms is sparking fires, many of which are quickly growing out of control. The largest is the Bootleg Fire in drought-stricken Oregon. At nearly 400,000 acres, the fire is bigger than New York City. It is already the third-largest in the state’s modern history. Despite round-the-clock efforts by hundreds of firefighters, as of Tuesday evening it is only 30% contained. The fire has already destroyed numerous homes and businesses and forced thousands to evacuate. Officials expect that it may take months to fully extinguish the massive blaze. Up to 100,000 additional acres may be incinerated by then.
— NWS IMET Operations (@NWS_IMET_OPS) July 20, 2021
This satellite video of the Bootleg Fire in Oregon is remarkable & terrifying. (from NOAA/NASA Goddard/CIRA) –> pic.twitter.com/f5fbctewCo
— Jacob Harold (@jacobcharold) July 20, 2021
— Jack Szwergold (@JackSzwergold) July 21, 2021
The fire is so large and hot, it’s creating its own weather, including towering clouds, lightning, and high winds. These are in turn severely hampering the efforts of firefighters and even sparking new wildfires nearby. Smoke from the Bootleg and other fires is climbing far into the upper atmosphere and being carried thousands of miles by strong jet stream winds. Significant amounts of haze and smoke have spread across the Midwest and Northeastern US, causing major air quality issues in those regions (see tweet from NYC above). Forecasters do not foresee any significant chances for widespread precipitation in the coming weeks over the West, and above-normal temperatures will continue.