The Guardian

Here in fire-stricken Oregon, an old way of life is gone | Erica Berry

‘At the end of last week, we unplugged the smoke alarms.’ Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Early last week, my smoke alarms began going off a few times a day. I began to move around my basement apartment in Portland, Oregon, with a scowl, noise-canceling headphones swinging around my neck. On the one hand, because there were no fires nearby, the alarms were not doing their job. The system was too sensitive, the boy was crying wolf. On the other hand, the alarms were working just fine: there was smoke. It was everywhere.

The color of the midday sky as it streamed across the bathroom floor was tangerine, and the air quality outside my window ranked worse than any other city in the world. Meanwhile, the wildfires that had already burned a million acres in Oregon and devoured hundreds of homes were now moving in an ugly rash toward my home town.

The first time the alarms went off,

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