NYC is covered in haze as smoke from Western wildfires fills the sky

New York is covered in haze as giant billows of smoke from raging Western wildfires travels thousands of miles across the country while lightning threatens more blazes

Smoke from raging wildfires in the western US and Canada has covered New York in a haze as the flames continue to burn hundreds of thousands of acres. The haze is visible over the Great Lakes region and reached New York City this morning, and it is expected to last all day. 

The smoke is primarily coming from the Bootleg Fire, which is the largest of more than 80 fires out west, and has scorched more than 476 square miles. It’s considered one of Oregon’s largest fires in modern history.

On Tuesday morning, air quality alerts were issued for New York City and the National Weather Service urged sensitive groups to remain indoors. Pictured: A view of Manhattan’s Chinatown looking uptown shows the Empire State barely visible in the distance.

‘What typically would have been just a nice sunny, blue-sky day is probably going to have that milky, hazy look to the sky,’ Accuweather Senior Meteorologist Carl Erickson told the NY Post . ‘It could be some rather beautiful, enhanced, vibrant sunsets tomorrow evening just because of that smoke.’ Pictured: The view from the Brooklyn Bridge shows downtown Brooklyn completely shrouded in the haze.

Pictured: Satellite image shows the haze from Oregon’s wildfire spreading toward the East Coast and blanketing New York.

An army of 2,250 personnel battling the Bootleg Fire, which is raging in and around the Fremont-Winema National Forest 250 miles south of Portland, has managed to carve containment lines around 30% of the perimeter by late Monday, up from 22% the day before, the Oregon Forestry Department reported.

‘We are fighting the fire aggressively, and there are active efforts to build a containment line,’ agency spokesman Marcus Kauffman said. He also shared that ground crews, backed by water-dropping helicopters and airplane tankers, include reinforcements from at least 30 US states. Pictured: A satellite image shows the fire and smoke clouds blowing eastward from Oregon.

The overall Bootleg footprint included almost 13,000 acres burned in a smaller fire that merged with the Bootleg on Monday, Kauffman said. But the amount of landscape charred since the blaze erupted on July 6 grew another 47,000-plus acres on Monday alone, reaching an estimated total of 364,000 acres – more than half the land mass of Rhode Island – the forestry department said. Pictured: The Bootleg Fire in Oregon.

At least 2,000 homes have been evacuated at some point during the fire and another 5,000 threatened. At least 70 homes and more than 100 outbuildings have gone up in flames. Pictured: A tanker drops retardant over the Bootleg Fire in hopes of containing the blaze.

So far, the fire has destroyed 67 homes, over 100 outbuildings, and other structures. An estimated 2,100 people were under evacuation orders or on standby alert to be ready to flee at a moment’s notice. 

‘It was red, like we were on Mars,’ evacuee Sayyid Bey, 45, said, recounting the crimson glow of the sky as he watched flames engulf trees closed on his property, located on the outskirts of Bly, Oregon, raining soot and embers on the small community on July 9. 

Bey shared that he and his wife packed their three children – aged 6, 11 and 12 – and as many belongings as they could carry into a borrowed pickup truck and sped off down a gravel road and out of harm’s way. He returned later to find his property reduced to ash. 

Bey, a former salesman who left his big-city fashion industry job several years ago to live ‘off the grid’ in Oregon, said he believes at least 60 homes, including his, were lost. But he said neighbors are already banding together with plans to help one another rebuild.

Homeowners were not alone in finding themselves scurrying into retreat. Extremely incendiary conditions on Sunday forced some firefighting teams to fall back to safety zones for the ninth straight day and regroup as they ‘looked for opportunities to reengage,’ incident commander Joe Hessel wrote in his daily report. ‘This fire is a real challenge, and we are looking at sustained battle for the foreseeable future.’

The Bootleg Fire stood as the biggest, by far, of 80 major active wildfires that have collectively burned nearly 1.2 million acres in 13 states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. More than 19,600 firefighters and support personnel are confronting those flames. 

Scientists have said the growing frequency and intensity of wildfires are largely attributable to prolonged drought and increasing bouts of excessive heat that are symptomatic of climate change.

Since it began on July 6, the Bootleg Fire has thrived from a combustible mix of weather conditions – gusty winds, high temperatures and low humidity – that are expected to persist. Forecasts on Monday added a chance of thunderstorms to the mix. ‘Thunderstorms often just come with dry lightning and wind and don’t necessarily produce any precipitation,’ Kauffman said. 

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