Smoke obscures ridgelines in the Wind River Mountains as backpacker Katie Steele hikes the Lizard Head trail near the Cirque of the Towers on Aug. 20, 2020. (Kristen Gunther)

Smoke from wildfires burning across the western U.S. flowed into Wyoming over the last week, obscuring ridgelines and darkening skies. 

Hundreds of blazes have ignited in August under hot and dry conditions. A heavy plume of smoke that entered Wyoming from the north late last week was the result of fires in California, Oregon and Idaho, according to officials. The smoke made for eerie and dramatic sunrises and sunsets, and sat heavy over cities, plains and mountain ranges. 

Fires burning in Utah and Colorado, meanwhile, have contributed to smoky skies in southern parts of the state. These include disruptive blazes like the nearly 140,000-acre Pine Gulch and 32,000-acre Grizzly Creek fires in western Colorado, and the 7,633-acre Richards Fire just across the state line in Utah.

According to the Air Now Fire and Smoke Map, thicker smoke has moved north out of the state this week. 

Fires are also burning in Wyoming, though they have been far less devastating than in places like California — where conflagrations have burned more than 1 million acres. 

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Blazes in Wyoming include the lightning-ignited Lone Star Fire in Yellowstone National Park, which was burning 820 acres as of Thursday; the 10-acre Freeze Out Point Fire in the Bighorn National Forest, which is 100% contained; and the smaller Crazy Creek and Painter Fires in the Shoshone National Forest. The Bradley Fire burning on 1,700 acres near Rawlins has been 90% contained, according to Inciweb.  

The National Weather Service has issued Red Flag warnings for much of Wyoming recently due to “critical” fire weather conditions of hot temperatures, low humidity and gusty wind. The U.S. Drought Monitor, meanwhile, shows all of Wyoming except a small western portion to be in some category of drought, with the severest conditions in the north-central part of the state. 

Katie Klingsporn is WyoFile's managing editor. She is a journalist and word geek who has been writing about life in the West for 15 years. Her pieces have appeared in Adventure Journal, National Geographic...

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