Smoke from Canadian wildfires brings poor air quality to Minnesota Monday, alert issued

Minnesota officials issued an air quality control warning through mid-day Monday as smoke from Canadian wild fires moves to northern parts and sweeps across the state.

"Fine particle levels are expected to reach the red air quality index (AQI) category, a level considered unhealthy for everyone, across all of Minnesota," stated the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in a press release.

The warning is set to expire at 12 p.m. Monday.

Areas in west, central and northern Wisconsin, as well as southern Minnesota, have visibilities that range from 4 to 7 miles, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a part of the USA TODAY Network.

Minnesota air quality map

Map shows wildfires in US, Canada

Who should avoid being outside?

According to the agency, everyone should limit "prolonged or heavy exertion and limit time spent outdoors," but sensitive groups should should avoid the outdoors all together and limit the amount of time they spend outside.

Sensitive groups include:

  • People with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or other breathing conditions

  • People with heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes

  • Pregnant people

  • Children and older adults

People who are sensitive may experience worsening of existing heart or lung disease and worsening of respiratory and cardiovascular conditions which can lead to the following:

  • Asthma attacks

  • Heart attacks

  • Strokes

How can smoke impact the average person's health?

The agency warns that people may experience several symptoms if they have prolonged exposure to the poor air quality.

It states that wildfire smoke can irritate one's eyes, nose, and throat and cause...

  • Coughing

  • Chest tightness,

  • Shortness of breath

  • Dizziness

  • Fatigue

"Anyone experiencing health effects related to poor air quality should contact their health care provider," states the agency. "Those with severe symptoms, chest pain, trouble breathing, or who fear they may be experiencing a heart attack or stroke should call 911 immediately."

Why is air quality in Minnesota so bad?

According to the agency, smoke from wildfires in northeast British Columbia swept in after a cold front.

Canadian fires prompt evacuations

On Saturday, 3,200 people living in northeastern British Columbia were under an evacuation order, Reuters reported, as fires charred over 24,710 acres.

According to Natural Resources Canada, there are over 100 active wildfires burning in the country, six of which are out of control.

The smoke from those fires is what lead the agency to release the air quality alert, the first of 2024, reports ABC News.

Not the first time smoke travels from Canada to the US

Last year, Canadian wild fires caused New York's sky to turn orange and look like a scene out of an apocalyptic movie.

However, there's some disagreement among experts about whether the U.S. should brace for a repeat of 2023's air-quality issues.

"It is extremely unlikely that the 2024 fire season will be as extreme as 2023, as 2023 was a record-smashing year," Mike Flannigan, a professor of wildland fire at Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia, previously told USA TODAY.

He adds that the drought the country faced is a sign of a warmer-than-normal summer and "suggest the potential for an active fire season."

But, Rebecca Saari, an associate professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, pointed out the drought and warm forecast, too, and said that she sees "similar patterns to last year."

Contributing: Doyle Rice, USA TODAY; Hannah Kirby, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Canadian wildfires, smoke bring air quality alert for Minneapolis area