Where There's Smoke

...There are wildfires. And there are a lot of them burning through the country right now.

Illustrated by AirNow

More than 1,200 firefighters are now battling the inferno in Washington known as the Okanogan Complex wildfire, which, after growing to an area of more than 400 square miles, became the largest in the state’s history yesterday. It’s expected to get even bigger from here.

That’s just the latest stat from what has been a record-breaking wildfire season in the United States and Canada—the news broke as about 70 firefighters from Australia and New Zealand landed in Boise, Idaho, to lend international aid to the smoldering West. Earlier this month, the U.S. Forest Service estimated it would spend more than half of its 2015 budget on fighting wildfires. In fact, the country is getting used to going into red in regard to its blaze-fighting budgets.

Even parts of the country not directly in the path of the flames are feeling the burn (in their lungs): The above map from airnow.gov shows all the wildfires that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites can spot right now and how far their particulate-laden smoke plumes stretch across American skies—from Alaska all the way down to Georgia. Gasp.

A NASA satellite image from August 22 showing smoke from Western wildfires

onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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