Wildfire smoke turns the sun into a blood-orange disk in August 2021 between Douglas and Bill in a landscape dotted with wind turbines and drilling rigs. (Alan Nash/@alannash59)

Smoke from distant wildfires hung heavy in the air across much of Wyoming this week, casting orangish shadows, turning the sun blood red and obscuring mountain ranges. 

Train engineer and photographer Alan Nash captured the smoke’s drama Monday between Douglas and Bill in an image that is iconically Wyoming. Nash, who conducts trains between the coal-rich Powder River Basin and Nebraska, said the smoke in the PRB was “crazy.”

That was an apt description of many parts of the state early in the week. The toothy Teton Range hid behind a haze of smoke, the Wind River Range foothills could barely be seen from Lander and a reddish pall colored the sky over Thermopolis. 

The National Weather Service office in Cheyenne on Monday issued an air quality alert for areas of southeast Wyoming, warning sensitive groups to avoid excessive physical exertion and minimize time outdoors. The Air Quality Division of the Wyoming DEQ also identified several areas of unhealthy air quality this week, particularly around Jackson and Gillette. 

Much of Wyoming was also under a red flag warning Tuesday due to low humidity, hot temperatures and gusty winds. 

More than 2.2 million acres had burned in 104 large fires and fire complexes in 12 states as of Tuesday, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. This includes massive conflagrations in California and Oregon.

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Katie Klingsporn reports on outdoor recreation, public lands, education and general news for WyoFile. She’s been a journalist and editor covering the American West for 20 years. Her freelance work has...

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