Wildfires make west coast cities top the worst air quality list in the world


  • Four cities in the US west coast region were included in the top ten worst air quality in the world.
  • Residents are still experiencing poor air quality for over a month as wildfires continue to blaze fueled by the heat and dry weather conditions.
  • The wildfire smoke combined with the presence of the coronavirus pandemic is posing a greater threat to Western residents.

As wildfires continue to rage and consume the west coast region of the US, four cities were included in the top ten with the worst air quality in the world.

Portland City in Oregon and Seattle in Washington got the first and second spots. The city of San Francisco and Los Angeles in California were ranked at fourth and sixth spots. These four cities have cumulatively overtaken cities in China, dropping them from the list.

Wildfires smoke has almost reached Hawaii and Michigan, west and east sides respectively. The blazes have consumed over 3.3m acres in California, 1m acres in Oregon, and more than 620,000 acres in Washington state.

California residents have faced a month of unhealthy air quality. The current burning wildfires, which are six of the state’s 20 largest based on history, have killed 24 people. 

The flames started in mid-August due to a series of dry lightning that fueled several wildfires. Firefighters had referred to the calamity as the August lightning siege, resulting from almost 14,000 lightning strikes that sparked over 900 new wildfires notwithstanding the continuous heat and dry weather which added more fires.

For weeks, Oakland, San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Diego have been covered with ashes. Local authorities have advised residents to remain indoors and refrain from doing outdoor activities. Informal settlers were forced to evacuate from the wildfires and are even more challenged with finding shelter given the social distancing guidelines.

Oregon and Washington’s residents are now faced with heavy haze as wildfires consumed the whole community. Last week, 10 people in Oregon died. In Clackamas and Marion counties, large blazes continue to thrive.

Thick layers of smoke combined with fog provide difficult visibility, especially during nighttime.

The National Weather Service is hoping that air quality levels could begin to improve soon, as residents are in dire need of aid in the form of a weather system.

The effects of wildfire smoke exposure on residents had already materialized. According to Stanford University, in the weeks following the August lightning siege, hospitalization rates of asthma rose by 10 percent, and cerebrovascular cases like strokes climbed by 23 percent.

Moreover, the poor air quality alongside the reigning coronavirus pandemic poses a deadly threat to Americans. Experts have already warned that exposure from wildfires smoke could make residents more vulnerable to contracting the virus.

Source: The Guardian

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