On Monday morning, I opened the door to the smell of campfires — the scent of other Californians’ homes going up in smoke. The air stung my eyes and burned my lungs. It felt like I was breathing through a straw. I rounded up my half-empty inhalers, hoping they hadn’t expired. The next day, the sky turned brown and rained ash on me.
California is besieged by 22 wildfires that have incinerated more than 265 square miles and killed at least 21 people. Smoke and ash blanket the Bay Area in a layer of haze responsible for the worst air quality on record. The smoke has prompted local schools to close, and reduced visibility at Bay Area airports so much that flights were delayed, or canceled.