Canadian wildfires force evacuations and prompt air quality alerts for the US

Last year, the country experienced its most devastating wildfire season in recorded history.
A smoky haze from Canadian wildfires hangs over downtown St. Paul, Minnesota
Posted at 4:05 PM, May 13, 2024

For the second year in a row, smoke from Canadian wildfires is prompting air quality warnings across the upper Midwest.

According to the latest report from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, the country is dealing with over 140 active wildfires as of Monday morning, with most burning in areas of British Columbia and Alberta.

The raging fires sent hazy smoke over parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin on Monday, prompting air quality alerts from state agencies.

Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois all had moderate (yellow) and/or unhealthy for sensitive groups (orange) air quality values, according to AirNow, the partnership website from federal, state and local agencies.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issued an air quality alert for Monday, warning citizens the air quality had reached unhealthy (red) levels for the southern portion of the state. An unhealthy air quality index value means everyone is at risk of negative health impacts.

Flames from the Donnie Creek wildfire burn along a ridge top north of Fort St. John, British Columbia.

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Similarly, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources issued advisories for several counties regarding the unhealthy air quality.

Fine particles from wildfire smoke are small enough to be breathed into the lungs and enter the bloodstream, officials said. It can lead to illnesses like bronchitis and trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes for those with existing heart or lung diseases.

According to The Associated Press, thousands of residents in the Canadian community of Fort Nelson have been forced to evacuate as many of the active fires are still "out of control."

Last year, the country experienced its most devastating wildfire season in recorded history. The blazes prompted air quality alerts and travel issues across the U.S. throughout the summer.

Firefighters from different American agencies assisted Canadian forces in responding to the massive fires last year.