wildfires

Wildfires are ravaging large swaths of the West in the middle of the wine grape harvest, sending hazardous smoke through picturesque vineyards.

It's forcing many agricultural workers to make a stark choice: Should they prioritize their health or earn badly needed money?

"The truth is that I have to work," said Maricela, 48, a team leader at a vineyard near Medford in southern Oregon. There are multiple fires blazing close to the town.

Updated at 8:51 p.m. ET

Los Angeles' Mount Wilson Observatory, the site of major 20th century scientific discoveries, has so far survived a terrifyingly close brush with a wildfire in the hills northeast of the city. But the threat isn't over.

The Bobcat Fire came within 500 feet of the observatory on Tuesday afternoon. Crews gathered to fight the fire, and tracked vehicles with front blades cleared fire lines to protect the area.


Wildfires in the Western U.S. continue to blaze, with much of the activity centered in California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

In Oregon and Washington, 28 large fires are burning across 1.5 million acres. But the Bureau of Land Management noted that growth has slowed for a number of the major fires. The large Beachie Creek Fire east of Salem, Ore., had recorded no new growth in the previous day.

With wildfires devastating the West and a hurricane bearing down on the Gulf Coast, President Trump, who has for years mocked and denied the reality of climate change, was briefed on Monday on the status of fires in California.

Farmworkers in California are facing two crises at once: the coronavirus and exposure to dangerous air from wildfires.

Massive fires border large swaths of California's agriculture region, the Central Valley. Monitoring stations report unhealthy air across the interior of the state.

Wildfires have now burned more than 4.6 million acres in 87 large fires across 10 states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. At least 35 people have died in California, Oregon and Washington, The Associated Press reported.

Dense smoke and fog enveloped an area far beyond the fires on Monday, keeping temperatures cooler but also creating new hazards in an ongoing catastrophe, with reduced visibility and a high risk of smoke inhalation.

Wildfires are destroying homes and communities on the West Coast — and they are also creating some of the world's worst air pollution in a region usually known for its clean living and stunning views. The fires and massive plumes of smoke are also affecting the fight to control COVID-19.

As fires ravage Oregon and Washington, burning around 1 million acres in a matter of days, fear and rumors have begun to take hold on social media.

On Facebook community groups in areas hard hit by fires, residents have begun frequently posting about forming patrols to look for looters, or worse: antifa, a loosely defined leftist group that is a frequent focus of far-right conspiracy theorists.

Linda Oslin and her husband lost everything when the Camp Fire raced into their neighborhood in Paradise, Calif., in the fall of 2018.

She's in her 70s — he in his 80s — and they decided they didn't have it in them to try to rebuild. That could take years. So they found a place for sale out of the woods and farther down the mountain near Oroville, Calif., where they've started to rebuild their lives.

Except for one thing.

After a quick hike off a steep dirt road, forest ecologist Marin Chambers stands surrounded by grasses, shrubs and blackened bare trees. This is part of where the Hayman fire — until last month, Colorado's largest in recorded history — burned northwest of Colorado Springs back in 2002. The ground is dry, crunching underfoot.

"What we're seeing is a very large high-severity burn patch, where the vast majority of the trees have died," says Chambers, with the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute at Colorado State University.

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