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article imageWildfires continue to rage — Atlantic coast is blanketed in smoke

By Karen Graham     Sep 1, 2015 in Environment
As of September 1, according to the National Interagency Fire center, wildfires have burned over eight million acres, an area larger than the state of Maryland. And no, we are not seeing the end of the wildfire season, not by a long shot.
Where there's smoke, there is fire, and the Atlantic Coast of North America is now beginning to see the impact of the smoke from fires in western Canada and the U.S. as the smoke wafts across the country and out to sea.
The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that 66 wildfires are still raging in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. In British Columbia, Canada, the number of wildfires in that province alone have dropped to 169 fires, down from 177 reported earlier today.
The number of wildfires in British Columbia  Canada have dropped to 169  from 177 earlier today.
The number of wildfires in British Columbia, Canada have dropped to 169, from 177 earlier today.
CTV News
The CTV News is saying the fires burn on, despite the cool weather, and there is still restricted access in and around the Big Sheep Creek wildfire, which is burning west of Rossland. Things are looking better, overall, with evacuation orders lifted and open campfires permitted in selected areas.
Air Quality Index is at Code Red in parts of the U.S.
The University of Maryland's Atmospheric Lidar Group posts a daily U.S. Air Quality web page that uses satellite, ground-based measurements and models to interpret and analyse air quality in the U.S.
As of Monday, air quality levels across parts of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho had reached a very unhealthy Code Red with PM2.5 AQI levels ranging from Moderate to Unhealthy (Code Yellow to Red). On the East Coast of the U.S. PM 2,5 AQI levels have reached moderate levels, due in part to a high-pressure system creating poor ventilation and stagnation.
Smoke from wildfires in the west have spread across the country.
Smoke from wildfires in the west have spread across the country.
Wildfire Today
It is interesting to note the extent of the smoke across North America. On Friday, just four days ago, the smoke from fires in the Northwest had extended as far to the northeast as the Hudson Bay and as far south as Texas. Smoke had even crept into Georgia and Alabama, raising AQI levels of sulphates.
Fighting wildfires versus fire prevention
As we have mentioned before, and it is worth mentioning again, there have been only six years when the nation has seen more than eight million acres burned in wildfires. And in case it wasn't mentioned, all those years were after 2000.
This year has already surpassed 2004 when 8,097,880 acres burned. The worst year was 2006 when we saw 9,873,745 acres consumed. To be truthful, Alaskan wildfires have put this year in the lead. Over five million acres burned in Alaska earlier this year.
Wildfire potential for September 2015.
Wildfire potential for September 2015.
National Interagency Fire Center
But with Alaska wildfires slowing down, in the continental U.S., fires have been picking up. When asked if this year could set a record, Jennifer Jones, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service said, “While nobody around here really likes to make bets with where we’ll end up at the end of the fire season, there’s certainly the potential to hit that record mark."
But the biggest issue and continuing problem is the exorbitant cost involved in fighting wildfires. The U.S. Forest Service is spending $100 million a week fighting wildfires, and this year, for the very first time, their budget expenditures will exceed 50 percent, says the Washington Post.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, whose department includes the Forest Service, is very outspoken in how exploding expenditures in fighting wildfires have undermined the agency's ability to do other things expected of it, like trail maintenance and fire prevention measures.
More about western wildfires, canadian wildfires, Atlantic coast, code red pm 25, reduced snow packs
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