An Unprecedented Number Of Canadian Wildfires Send Smoke Pollution Across The United States

Fueled by unusually high temperatures, hundreds of wildfires are burning across Western Canada — and they’re sending their smoke south across the United States border.

Wildfire danger throughout Western Canada is “very high,” according to the Canadian Wildland Fire Information System (CWFIS), with the majority of fire activity taking place in three provinces: Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Alberta. “Nationally,” the CWFIS’ most recent report reads, “fire activity has increased dramatically and is now well above average for this time of year.”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the wildfires up north are causing a “tremendous amount of smoke,” and it hasn’t stopped at the border: smoke from Canada’s wildfires has been seen across the Midwest and as far south as North Carolina, bringing a haze to the sky and turning sunsets fiery red. But the smoke also brings dangerous fine particles, which can diminish air quality and, in high concentrations, pose a public health threat.

Because of the path of the smoke — which moved primarily east-southeast, air quality in Minnesota was particularly hard-hit. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said that the wildfire smoke was responsible for the worst air quality levels in nearly a decade — at times, the air quality in the Twin Cities was equal or worse than air quality in places like Beijing, China or Sao Paulo, Brazil, cities known for their high levels of pollution.

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