An Air Quality Alert has been issued in the Philadelphia area on Wednesday, July 21, as a heavy haze begins to set in due to West Coast fires.
The smoke from the fires has spread rapidly across the United States in a jet stream and has settled down at a low altitude above Philadelphia and the East Coast. The spike in hazardous particles in the air has forced state and local health officials to issue a Code Orange Air Quality alert, “signifying unhealthy pollution levels especially for sensitive groups,” 6ABC Action News reported.
The main culprit of the smoke is the Bootleg Fire, situated 300 miles southeast of Portland, Oregon. Due to hot and arid summer weather, the fire has been able to grow immensely to an area a third of the size of Rhode Island, according to 6ABC.
Air quality regulations state that senior citizens, young children, and individuals with heart or lung conditions should limit their time outside. Those not within these at-risk categories should also remain wary, state health officials noted.
"These are definitely things that are breathable – that people can inhale – and you know, that causes a lot of stress on a person's lungs and well-being and overall health," Jamar Thrasher, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Press Secretary, said to 6ABC.
The possibility of thunderstorms and lightning in the Oregon area later this week is keeping local fire staff on high alert.
"Although the lightning activity … is expected to occur east of us, we are prepared for the worst, and hoping for the best," Mike McCann, an assistant fire staff, said to Newsweek.
Oregon officials have been calling on additional help from the rest of the Pacific Northwest to battle against Bootleg, which is already the third-largest fire in Oregon’s history.
Climate change has contributed to the extremely dry conditions and heatwaves in the West and will continue to make wildfires more frequent and more volatile.
"There's absolutely no question that climate change is playing out before our eyes," Gov. Kate Brown said at a news conference, CNN Weather reported.
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