Every day for the past week,
Check the air-quality index.
"Normally, we had good air," said Papale, who grew up in
Good air would mean a low number, like 5 or 10 or 20 or 30. Lately, the reading for her
"We really haven't had this kind of air quality since I've been out here."
That's changed with the record-setting wildfires that started in
"It's been really bad since the
Ash-darkened skies, burned-out cars and homes, fleeing campers and residents, exhausted firefighters, 35 confirmed deaths and dozens of fires, causing smoky air as far east as
Last Wednesday, photos of the
"We didn't have any daylight," Papale said. "So that was disturbing."
These days, the e-commerce shoe entrepreneur limits her outside time to taking the family's puppy to the backyard.
"Even when I go out back with a mask, I get congested, and I'm pretty hardy," she said.
The warp speed of the fires' spread, coupled with the long-term social isolation of the pandemic, have made life particularly hard lately,
"Outside was respite," said Stebbins, a freelance video editor from
"Everyone was already anxious about the pandemic, and you add this, it's definitely affecting everybody's mood."
For now, Stebbins and his girlfriend are only leaving their respective apartments for necessities, masking up and breathing in air that smells like "campfire mixed with a chemical smell."
Stebbins has a small bag packed in case residents are asked to evacuate. His girlfriend's parents, who live in a suburb to the south, were on Level 1 alert for evacuation last week, although so far, they have been able to remain in their home.
"It's like a horror movie outside," Stebbins said. "It's like we're living on another planet."
Wildfires in the West are predictable enough to have a season named after them, but this year drought and heat have combined to set off record -- or near-record -- numbers.
More than 28 wind-fueled wildfires were active in
Dozens of fires have burned more than a million acres in
"There's all this misinformation out about how the fires started," Stebbins said. "It's just sad."
A handful of small fires have been linked to arson, and another fire in
"It will start getting cooler, you just watch," Trump told a
"People out here in
The fires are painfully familiar to Laurie and
The retired couple left
They lost their home and nearly all of their possessions after fleeing a wind-whipped inferno that killed at least 86 people and obliterated 14,000 homes and businesses.
After months of living in an extended-stay motel, they bought a house in
"Last Tuesday, we had that yellow sky all day, and it was so frightening," she said. "I packed a few things, but we've never had to really worry about leaving."
"Off the charts," she said. "It's been a solid week since it's been safe to go outside."
Baker can look out her front window and see the dusting of ash over everything, footprints where people have walked.
The couple have already counseled a young couple who lost their home in this year's fires, advising them on the strategies that helped them push forward.
If they were younger, they'd be out handing out food and supplies, Baker said.
"I told Mark I was going to talk to you (a reporter), and he said, 'I don't have anything left. I don't have anything in the tank.'"
Physically, they are fine, she said. They keep a watch on the fires. They are grateful to have a home.
"But as far as emotionally, we are pretty wiped out."
Reach the writer at 402-473-7218 or [email protected].
On Twitter @TheRealCLK
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