Smoke and ash from massive wildfires in the American West shrouded the sky and led to air quality alerts on parts of the East Coast on Wednesday as the effects of the blazes were felt 2,500 miles (4,023 kilometers) away.
Haze hung over New York City, New Jersey and Pennsylvania as strong winds blew smoke east from California, Oregon, Montana and other states on the opposite end of the country.
The nation's largest wildfire, Oregon's Bootleg Fire, grew to 616 square miles (1,595 square kilometers)—just over half the size of Rhode Island. Fires also burned on both sides of California's Sierra Nevada, Washington state and other areas of the West.
The smoke blowing in to the East Coast was reminiscent of last fall, when large blazes burning in Oregon's worst wildfire season in recent memory choked the local sky with pea-soup smoke but also affected air quality several thousand miles away. So far this year, Seattle and Portland have largely been spared the foul air as the weather and winds push the smoke east.
People in parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and elsewhere with health issues like heart disease and asthma were told to avoid the outdoors. Air quality alerts for parts of the region were in place through Thursday.
[...] Fire crews have had to retreat from the flames for 10 consecutive days as fireballs jump from treetop to treetop, trees explode, embers fly ahead of the fire to start new blazes and, in some cases, the inferno's heat creates its own weather of shifting winds and dry lightning. Monstrous clouds of smoke and ash have risen up to 6 miles (10 kilometers) into the sky and are visible for more than 100 air miles (161 kilometers).