Canadian Wildfires Threaten Air Quality Again In These U.S. Cities

Canadian Wildfires Threaten Air Quality Again In These U.S. Cities


Wildfires across western Canada have prompted air quality alerts and evacuations, as parts of the Central U.S. are threatened Monday with unhealthy pollution levels again a year after record-breaking flames enveloped most of the East Coast in smoke.

Officials warned of another “catastrophic” wildfire season after record-breaking blazes last year.

AFP via Getty Images

Key Facts

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issued an air quality alert Monday for the state’s southern region, affecting conditions In Minneapolis, St. Paul and Rochester as smoke travels south toward Iowa, though the agency warned air pollution across the state would reach a “level considered unhealthy for everyone.”

Parts of northern Wisconsin—including Eau Claire and Green Bay—have “unhealthy” air quality, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow tracker, “unhealthy” air quality caused by smoke has been recorded across eastern Montana, the Dakotas and throughout most of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Air quality that is unhealthy for sensitive groups—people with asthma, heart or lung disease—has also been recorded in northern Nebraska and Iowa, according to the agency.

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Surprising Fact

Minneapolis briefly overtook Jakarta, Indonesia, as the most polluted major city in the world, according to the global air quality tracker IQAir. The city’s level of PM 2.5—airborne particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter—stood at 171, an “unhealthy” level that should prompt residents to shorten the amount of time outdoors, the EPA said.


There are 146 fires burning across Canada as of Monday morning, 39 of which are “out of control” and 93 that are under control, according to Canada’s fire agency. Most of these fires are affecting British Columbia (50) and Alberta (45). Evacuation orders were issued for some communities in northern British Columbia, including a travel advisory for the Fort Nelson area because of “aggressive and extreme” fires. In Alberta, an evacuation alert for communities near Fort McMurray was issued because of “an out-of-control wildfire” that burned about 16,000 acres as of Sunday evening.

What To Watch For

Drought conditions will continue to affect high-risk regions through western Canada in May, in addition to above-average temperatures that could “exacerbate the risk and intensity of both natural and human-caused wildfires,” the Canadian government said Friday.

Key Background

The Canadian government warned of a possible “catastrophic” wildfire season last month, amid extreme drought conditions and temperature trends that are “very concerning.” While drought conditions affect western Canada, officials said eastern Ontario and southern Quebec will likely experience “early, above normal” fire activity in May. The country experienced its worst-ever wildfire season last year, after more than 6,551 total fires burned across Canada. Wind pushed wildfire smoke toward the U.S., covering the eastern U.S. in a sepia haze. Because of the smoke—which affected air quality from Minnesota to northern Virginia—New York City was briefly the most polluted city in the world.

Further Reading

Canada May Face Another ‘Catastrophic’ Wildfire Season—After Historic Blazes Covered U.S. In Smoke (Forbes)

Photos: New York City Engulfed In Canadian Wildfire Smoke (Forbes)

Read More

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