Wildfire smoke makes for bad air quality in northern US

Canadian wildfires reached an unprecedented landmark Sunday with 10 million hectares (24.7 million acres) burned to date, and the effects are felt in poor air quality in the US as well as Canada.

The land lost to wildfires almost equals the size of Canada’s large island of Newfoundland, the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre reported. 

As of Sunday, there were 877 wildfires burning across the country, according to the center, and to date in 2023, there have been 4,129 fires. 

The previous record for area burned was 7.6 million hectares (18.7 million acres) in 1989.

Thousands of firefighters have converged on Canada from around the globe, including from the US, Mexico, South Africa and Australia.

To date, two Canadian firefighters have lost their lives in the line of duty. The latest death occurred when a firefighter was battling a blaze Saturday in the Northwest Territories, officials said.

Wildfire smoke has triggered repeated poor air quality warnings across Canada, but the alerts have filtered into much of the US as well.

On Sunday, the US Environmental Protection Agency signaled air quality alerts from Montana to Ohio.​​​​​​​

“Air quality alerts are in place for much of the Great Lakes, Midwest, and northern High Plains,” the National Weather Service said. “This is due to the lingering thick concentration of Canadian wildfire smoke over these regions.”

“While the concentration of smoke in the atmosphere should begin to wain by Monday, there is still enough smoke to support unhealthy air quality that is unhealthy for sensitive groups in parts of these regions into the start of the upcoming week,” it added.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul warned state residents Sunday that air quality alerts were on the horizon.

“If you start looking up tomorrow, you’re going to see a similar situation to what we had a couple of weeks ago because of the air quality degradation resulting from the wildfires in Canada,” she said. “We’re likely to be issuing an air quality alert for portions of our state.

Scroll to Top