Today about 40 wildfires were burning in California alone, though blazes were also reported in Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, Oregon, Wyoming and Montana. Smoke has been detected at least as far east as New Mexico. 

Almost 1,000 fires have raged in California since Aug. 15, many sparked by lightning strikes. The state already has set a grim record with more than 2 million acres burned this year, more than 3,000 square miles, with several weeks remaining in the heart of fire season.

The fires came during a Labor Day weekend that trapped many outdoors enthusiasts in the back country. Helicopter pilots braved thick smoke to locate stranded people and their pets. Some 164 were choppered out of the Sierra National Forest alone.  The California National Guard said later Tuesday that a Stockton-based Chinook helicopter shuttled 46 people and four dogs to safety at Fresno Yosemite International Airport.

Smoke from wildfires across California has thrown a shroud over Southern California, reaching as far as New Mexico. In some areas, it could be days before residents get to see blue skies again.  Collectively, fires are producing smoke that’s headed east into other portions of the Southwest.

“There’s thick smoke covering most of Arizona,” said Phil Gonsalves, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Diego.  “I can say with some confidence it’s east of Albuquerque.”

For additional information visit our friends at USA TODAY.

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