A satellite image from Friday, July 14, 2023, shows a plume of smoke heading toward the US. (Credit: CSU/CIRA and NOAA)
(WABNEWS) — Smoke from the Canadian wildfires continues to plague the United States, prompting air quality alerts in at least 11 states across the Northern Plains, Midwest and Great Lakes region on Sunday.
From Montana to Ohio, forecasters predicted nearly 60 million people would see reduced visibility and poor air quality, including residents of Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Cedar Rapids and Cleveland.RELATED
A large swath of the northern Plains from Montana to Illinois had an air quality index in the “unhealthy” range, which is level 4 of 6, as of Sunday.
“While the concentration of smoke in the atmosphere should begin to decrease this Monday, there is still enough smoke to maintain unhealthy air quality that is unhealthy for sensitive groups in parts of these regions at the beginning of next week,” according to the Climate Prediction Center of the National Metereological Service from USA
Winds will continue to push smoke to the east, bringing a smoky haze to the northeast early in the week.
The plume was born from nearly 400 fires started in the Canadian province of British Columbia last week, nearly half of which were started by 51,000 lightning bolts from thunderstorms, said the British Columbia Forest Fire Service. Some of those thunderstorms were “dry” or produced inconsequential amounts of rain to help put out the fires, a dangerous prospect in a province that experience the worst level of drought.
Canadian authorities announced Sunday that a second firefighter had died fighting the wildfires.
“We are saddened to share the tragic news that a Fort Liard firefighter passed away from an injury sustained while fighting a forest fire in the Fort Liard district on Saturday afternoon,” Canada’s Northwest Territories authorities said in a statement. release.
Authorities confirmed Thursday the death of a firefighter responding to a fire near Revelstoke, a city in southeastern British Columbia.
“I am incredibly saddened by the news from the Northwest Territories that another firefighter lost his life fighting the bushfires,” he tweeted on sunday Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “To his family, his friends and those whom they heroically served: Canadians have you in our thoughts. We are here for you.”
Smoke from wildfires contains small pollutants known as particulate matter, or PM2.5, which can reach the lungs and bloodstream once inhaled. These pollutants often cause shortness of breath and eye and throat irritation, but have also been linked to more serious long-term health problems, such as lung cancer, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from USA
Parts of the United States will be at risk of smoke for the foreseeable future depending on weather patterns and fire outbreaks because Canada is experiencing its worst fire season on record. More than nine million acres have burned so far this year, an area that is roughly the size of Indiana.
British Columbia has had more than 1,000 fires since April. Those fires have already burned nearly three times the amount of land compared to an average year in British Columbia over the past 10 years, the province’s wildfire service said.
— WABNEWS’s Eric Zerkel and Susannah Cullinane contributed to this report.