Wildfire Smoke: The Health Threat That Won't Go Away

Health departments across the West are mobilizing to protect residents’ health from smoke generated by dozens of fires that have sent smoke as far east as the Midwest.

“It’s really bad,” said Janice Nolan, assistance vice president for national policy of American Lung Association. “I hadn’t seen code maroon days, which is the most hazardous air quality, in years.”

Lewiston, Idaho, is stewing under “very unhealthy” smoke, with older people, people with heart and lung disease and children urged to “avoid all physical activity outdoors.”

Washington wildfires now largest in state's history

The group of wildfires burning in central Washington is now the largest in state history, a fire official said Monday.

The so-called Okanogan Complex of five wildfires now covers 256,567 acres, KREM-TV reported. Rick Isaacson, a spokesman for crews battling the blazes statewide, said the complex measured just over 400 square miles, slightly more than the 2014 Carlton fires. The fires grew by more than 26 square miles on Sunday and were expected to spread even more in coming days.

Isaacson said the fires could burn for several more months.

USDA Forest Service Forced to Transfer Funds to Pay for Fire Suppression

WASHINGTON (August 27, 2015)—The USDA Forest Service has begun the first of two transfer increments, to total up to $450 million, from other programs within the agency in order to fund wildfire suppression.

National Association of State Foresters President and Florida State Forester Jim Karels said today:

Statement on State Role in Fire Suppression

WASHINGTON (August 25, 2015)—As the western United States continues to experience significant wildland fire activity, state forestry agencies are working around-the-clock with their partners in fire suppression. State Foresters—the directors of state forestry agencies—allocate resources, ensure public information and safety, and provide technical expertise and personnel needed to fight fires safely and effectively.

Researchers study how much smoke wildland firefighters can handle

Wildland firefighters don’t care to be called “smoke eaters” anymore, but smoke is what’s on their menu.

And it’s on the minds of Joe Domitrovich and Joe Sol at the U.S. Forest Service’s Technology and Development Center in Missoula, where they’re studying just how much smoke a firefighter can eat – or breathe – before health issues start to hurt performance.

Kansas sends fire coordinator to help in Alaska

This summer, as Alaska was on pace to set a new record for the number of acres burned by wildfires, the ones flocking to the land of the midnight sun have been firefighters and firefighting personnel.

Forty-five states including Washington, D.C. sent more than 3,500 firefighting personnel to battle multiple, ongoing fires in the state this season. This number includes many varied support personnel, and one such member was the Kansas Forest Service's very own fire management coordinator, Ross Hauck.

Idaho facing unprecedented wildfire season

Idaho is facing an unprecedented wildfire season, the state's top forestry official says.

"We are seeing well above average temperatures, and we're seeing fuel moisture levels that are at record lows," David Groeschl, state forester for the Idaho Department of Lands, told Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and other members of the Idaho Land Board on Tuesday.

Records indicate conditions are worse now than they have been since at least 1926, noting there is no moisture forecast for 10 to 14 days, he said.

Over 200 wildfires hit Texas in past week

Record amounts of spring rains may have ended the five-year Texas drought, but it has also provided bountiful fuel for more than 200 wildfires that cropped up around the state last week.

Officials with the Texas A&M Forest Service and rangeland resource experts with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service say the growth that sprouted up as a result of the rains and the extended dry period and high temperatures that followed have created a perfect storm for wildfires in Texas.

Delaware firefighters head out West

Delaware State Forester Michael Valenti is headed west this weekend to fight fires in a region covering parts of Montana and the northern Rockies.

The Delaware Forest Service sent out a team earlier this month to fight the Fork Complex Fire. This is a blaze covering nearly 28,000 acres in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest close to Hayfork, California. The Delaware firefighters are among the almost 2,400 personnel have been battling a fire that’s now 26 percent contained. The 20-person crew will soon complete their two-week assignment and could return home as soon as August 16.