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Smokey skies in western Wyoming due to regional fires 

Sugarloaf Fire is in northern Albany County.
Scott McDermid
Sugarloaf Fire is in northern Albany County.

The western side of the state, specifically areas near Jackson, Alta and Pinedale, have seen on and off again smoke and haze this week from regional fires.

Jackson-based meteorologist Alan Smith said it is coming from two large wildfires. The Moose Fire is near Salmon, Idaho and is more than 38,000 acres. Additionally, the Oak Fire is near Yosemite National Park, and at almost 19,000 acres is California’s largest wildfire.

Smith said the smoke plume on large fires can reach as high as 40,000 feet in the atmosphere.

“You're getting up into the jetstream level winds,” he said. “So winds are picking up as you get higher in the atmosphere, and so it can carry that smoke a long ways away from where the actual fire is located. Oftentimes you get winds that are out of the west or the southwest, and since California is located southwest of Wyoming, it can carry it straight here.”

Several areas north of Jackson in Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park are under a ‘moderate air quality’ advisory, meaning people with sensitivities should reduce outdoor activity.

Smith said the smoky season is likely just getting started.

“August is usually the peak season for smoke,” he said. “That's when fires tend to be most active in the Western US. It tends to be the month where it's had time to dry out all summer long.”

There are currently two larger fires in Wyoming. The Sand Springs Fire north of Casper is more than 3,000 acres. The Sugarloaf Fire is in northern Albany County at almost 400 acres. There is an evacuation notice in the county for Bear Creek Road between the Garrett intersection and Friend Park.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.

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