The US is going to experience more and more wildfires in the coming years, and that's going to pose a much bigger health risk than you might assume, the Natural Resources Defense Council warned in a new report today. Nearly 212 million Americans—or about two-thirds of us—lived in counties that were affected by wildfire smoke in 2011, the council found. Some of those counties were hundreds of miles from an actual fire.
Twenty-two states were hit by smoke even though they didn't have fires within their borders. "It affects a much wider area of the United States than people realize," the study's author tells USA Today. And climate change research suggests that more fires and droughts are coming. "Our landscapes are becoming more of a tinderbox," the author says. The report urges the creation of more monitoring stations that can warn people when it's best to stay inside and avoid the smoke. (Read more wildfires stories.)