US issues air quality warnings, restricts flights over smoke from Canada fires

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WASHINGTON – US agencies warned people in much of the Northeast to avoid inhaling smoke from Canadian wildfires, which clouded the air for the third day in a row Thursday and disrupted travel.

The Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) in Washington issued an air quality warning and advised people in affected areas to stay indoors.


“Today the air quality is extremely unhealthy. Members of the general public may experience health effects and sensitive groups may experience more serious health issues.

“Some potential effects are heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, aggravated asthma, and decreased lung function,” UPI reported the DOEE tweeted Thursday.

“Everyone should stay indoors as much as possible, especially sensitive groups such as children, elderly, pregnant women and people with heart and lung conditions like asthma and bronchitis,” the department said.

In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced plans to provide about 1 million N95 masks to residents, as smoke and haze as a result of ongoing Canadian wildfires continue to impact air quality throughout the state, it reported.

Air quality alerts were issued in at least 20 states, from Massachusetts south to Missouri.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) paused flights from multiple airports due to the smoke.

Reduced visibility from wildfire smoke will continue to impact air travel today. We will likely need to take steps to manage the flow of traffic safely into New York City, D.C., Philadelphia and Charlotte, N.C., it cited the the FAA tweeted.

Later in the day, the FAA briefly grounded flights to Philadelphia due to low visibility.

Some New York events were also canceled due to the smoke, including three Broadway shows and the Chris Stapleton concert. New York schools announced Friday classes would be held remotely.

In the Washington area, Thursday’s baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the Arizona Diamondbacks was postponed. The White House postponed a Pride Month event until Saturday.

Canada’s Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair said the fires have burned about 9.4 million acres of forest, forcing the evacuation of at least 26,000 people.

President Joe Biden and Hochul, along with officials in New Hampshire and Maine, are sending firefighters to Canada to help fight the blaze.

AccuWeather senior meteorologist Brett Anderson said Quebec and Nova Scotia have set new seasonal records for the amount of land burned during a wildfire season.

“For Canada, the amount of acres burned through early June has already surpassed the 10-year average for an entire season. We are not necessarily seeing more fires with climate change, but larger fires that are consuming vast amounts of area,” he said. – Bernama