Shake and Bake: In the West, what isn’t smoldering is shuddering
JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Teton County was overprepared for the total eclipse. Maybe, before the order to “stand down” went out, we should have left some at their posts.
Take a quick glance at one of the many maps of the West on social media. Is the clustering of dots signifying the latest wildfires or earthquakes? It’s hard to tell at first.
Smoke in the valley is pretty bad. It is a result of numerous fires burning west of Wyoming. A total of 77 large wildfire are currently burning across eight western U.S. states.
Western Montana is completely ablaze with one of the worst wildfire seasons in state history. Perhaps more than a millions acres have been scorched so far. Estimates are now being done in square miles. Sartin Draw, Rice Ridge, Lolo Peak—it’s almost easier to keep track of what’s not burning in Big Sky Country. Ditto Oregon, Idaho and Washington.
California, as usual, burned early and often. Triple the acreage lost this year than last. Not even urban areas were off limits as the largest wildfire in Los Angeles history forced evacuations in the Burbank area and prompted Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency.
Wyoming in particular has been mostly spared. In fact, the state’s largest fire to date was caused by fire managers themselves when a prescribed burn in Pole Creek got away from them. That fire is at 3,148 acres and is 55% contained.
The number of recorded earthquakes registering at least 2.5 magnitude in southeastern Idaho is now more than a hundred. Seventeen more tremblors today alone between 3.0 and 4.3 just east of Soda Springs. Experts say the activity will likely taper off by the end of the week. Or not.
Meanwhile, an ongoing earthquake swarm in Yellowstone is now one of the biggest ever recorded with over 2,300 tremors since it began in June. A 3.3M shook the park as recent as August 21.
It’s a good timing for the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance “Party for our Public Lands” tomorrow at the Center for the Arts. See you there at 5:30pm.
According to Dr. Travis Riddell, Teton County Health Officer, “Wildfire smoke can hurt your eyes, aggravate respiratory problems and worsen the symptoms of heart or lung disease. Everyone should use common sense when their local air is smoky and avoid heavy outdoor exercise. Those at-risk should be especially careful in limiting their smoke exposure.”
Riddell noted people who have pre-existing heart and respiratory conditions, including allergies, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), are especially susceptible to the ill effects of wildfire smoke. Older adults are more likely to be affected because they are more likely to have heart or lung disease, and children are vulnerable because their airways are still developing and because they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults.
When staying indoors because of wildfire smoke people should keep their indoor air as clean as possible. Below are a few suggestions residents should follow:
- Try to keep windows and doors closed.
- Keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean if you run an air conditioner.
- Seek shelter elsewhere if you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed.
- When smoke levels are high, do not use anything that burns, such as candles, fireplaces or gas stoves.
- Do not vacuum, because vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home.
- Do not smoke, because smoking puts even more pollution into the air.
For more information or questions about smoke from wildfires, please call Teton County Public Health at 733-6401.