13 July 2015
We associate air pollution with big cities, but millions of people are feeling the impacts of pollution from wildfires burning from California to Alaska and as far east as Colorado. It is one of the worst years on record for forest fires and we will spend billions to fight the fires and protect people, homes and businesses.
Mammoth forest fires have been around for centuries. In a single week in September 1902, the Yacolt Burn engulfed more than a half million acres and killed 56 people in the Columbia River Gorge and around Mt. St. Helens. The choking smoke was so thick that ships on the Columbia River were forced to navigate by compass and the street lights in Seattle, 160 miles to the north, glowed at noon.
Triggered by a mild winter and low snow pack, this year’s fire season is earlier than normal and could be devastating. Just as damaging, these fires are releasing millions of tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.
Last month, The Vancouver Sun published a Sierra Club analysis showing that, over the last two decades, British Columbia forests have turned from a big absorber of CO2 into a big emitter of CO2.
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