Millions of Americans still under air quality warnings amid wildfires

Smoke from the hundreds of wildfires burning in Canada forced school closures, canceled events, and sent outdoor workers home early.
Posted at 9:04 PM, Jun 09, 2023

She’s a sight to see: For the first time in days, the Statue of Liberty appeared through the smoke. Record-setting wildfire haze had shrouded many of New York’s iconic landmarks since Tuesday.

Now, the smoke is dissipating in some of the hardest hit areas, but the air quality dangers are still spreading across the Northeast and stretching as far south as Durham, North Carolina, and inland across Pennsylvania to Detroit, which, like New York City, was one of the top three most air polluted cities on the planet this week.  

But it's not just here — the smoke is traveling across the Atlantic Ocean, covering Greenland and reaching all the way to Norway and Sweden. 

In cities large and small, people are masked-up, using those leftover pandemic era N95 masks. 

"The smoke is kind of like strong, so I didn't want to breathe too much of it in. And I was up this morning without [a mask] on and it's kind of like a walk, so I wanted to try to protect myself as much as I can," said Nikki Sanders, a resident of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Smoke from the hundreds of wildfires burning in Canada forced school closures, canceled events and sent outdoor workers home early.  

"Everything we do is outside and it's strenuous work. So we didn't want to overtax them. So in the process of doing that we suspended all of our highways work, as well as our flood protection work," said Scott Pietreface, the director of Scranton Department of Public Works.

The smoke still threatens the running of the Triple Crown’s Belmont Stakes. This weekend in Belmont, New York, the governor is setting air quality limits that could cancel the horse race — all part of what she calls our new reality.

"We're the first generation to really feel the effects of climate change and the last one to be able to do anything meaningful about it," said New York Gov. Kathy Hochul. 

Canada’s wildfire season is just starting, so as the skies start to clear, there’s fear the smoke could block out the views again this summer. 

Smoke over Belmont Park in New York.

Smoke causes cancellations of events for 2nd day in a row

The poor air quality on Thursday led to the cancellation of horse races at Belmont Park in New York and a Pride event at the White House.