The smoke from massive wildfires hangs like fog over large parts of the West, an irritating haze that has caused health concerns, forced sports teams to change schedules and disrupted life from tiny Seeley Lake, Montana, to Seattle.
Air quality has been rated unhealthy in cities across the region because of the blazes that show no signs of abating. Officials said Friday one of the worst wildfire seasons in the U.S. in terms of area burned is likely to continue scorching Western states and blanketing large swaths with smoke until cooler weather patterns with rain or snow arrive later in the fall.
People from small western towns to the populous Bay Area in California — which was experiencing unhealthy air Friday due in part to wildfires burning nearby — have had enough.
“Last night, I went to sleep with the windows open and woke up with a stomach ache and a headache,” said Tresa Snow, who owns a hair salon in Brookings, Oregon, near a large wildfire. “I knew before I could even smell it that the fire was back. And you can hear my voice, kind of raspy. We’re all kind of like that.”
She said business has been down throughout town near the California border. “Businesses are closing because they don’t have their help. People have been evacuating.”
In the run-up to the long U.S. Labor Day weekend several high school football teams changed their season-opening football games to avoid the smoke, and other athletic events have been postponed. Football teams have been practicing inside gymnasiums whenever possible. The poor air quality has also caused the cancellation of some performances at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland and the Cycle Oregon Classic Ride.
In early August smoke from wildfires in British Columbia pushed down into western Washington, choking the region and prompting health officials to tell people in the Seattle area to keep children, the elderly and people with respiratory problems to stay inside.
Smoke has affected the western Montana town of Seeley Lake to such a degree that Missoula County health officials urged people to leave to escape the pollution weeks before Tuesday’s order to evacuate part of the town.
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