Not only are states like Montana, Idaho and Colorado dealing with fires of their own, but their skies have also filled with smoke that has drifted over from California.
In Colorado, four major fires have burned nearly 200,000 acres, and poor air quality in Denver has led health officials to advise people to stay indoors and limit driving to reduce air pollution. An air quality alert is in place through Tuesday afternoon.
The largest fire currently burning in the state, called the Pine Gulch Fire, was sparked on July 31 by lightning. The other three major fires in the state were also ignited by lightning around the same time. The Pine Gulch fire has grown into the second largest in the state’s recorded history, at 134,999 acres as of Tuesday morning.
“In the last 30 days we’ve had over 200,000 acres of fire growth, which is pretty dramatic,” said Larry Helmerick, the fire information coordinator for the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center, which includes Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota and Kansas. Most of those 200,000 acres have been concentrated in Colorado, he said.
Fire crews have made good progress on the Pine Gulch Fire, which is now 47 percent contained and burning in a rugged, mountainous region north of Grand Junction.
Some rain may be on the horizon from storms moving up through the Gulf of Mexico, Mr. Helmerick said, which would help significantly.
Unlike in California, Colorado’s fires are not threatening a large number of homes or causing widespread evacuations. “It’s just another year of fires in Colorado,” Mr. Helmerick said, noting that in previous years, like 2012 and 2018, more than a million acres burned within his five-state area.