Canada wildfire smoke updates: At least 100 million Americans affected by air quality alerts (2023)

Smoke from wildfires in Canada has drifted down into the U.S. on Wednesday, leading to extremely poor air quality across much of the eastern U.S., with alerts in effect all the way from New England to the Southeast. In all, more than 100 million Americans were affected by air quality alerts, the Environmental Protection Agency said.

In fact, New York City's air quality was the worst among the world's major cities for a time Tuesday morning, according to IQAir, an air quality monitoring website. As of Wednesday afternoon, IQAir said New York City's pollution was fourth-worst in the world, behind New Delhi, India; Dhaka, Bangladesh; and Toronto.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said that the city's air quality index on Wednesday climbed up to 484 out of a scale of 500, more than double the level that was reached Tuesday night. He said the city's air quality health advisory has been extended through Thursday night.

Due to the unhealthy air, Major League Baseball postponed Wednesday night's games in New York and Philadelphia. It's the first such postponementsince September 2020, when two games between the Seattle Mariners and the San Francisco Giants were moved from Seattle to San Francisco due to wildfire-related smoke.

Also, New York Gov. Kathy Hochultweeted Wednesday that the state is making 1 million N95 masks available to the public due to the ongoing poor air quality from the Canadian wildfires.

"We are living in the era of extreme weather. Last summer, New York experienced extremely dry conditions and we had wildfires pop up across the state," Hochul said. "While continuing our fight against climate change, we need to recognize that this is a new reality we have to be prepared for."

The poor air quality on Wednesday even made it as far south as Atlanta, where the National Weather Service said: "particularly sensitive groups may be affected in north Georgia."

Sara Adar, from the University of Michigan's School of Public Health, said "as many people in the Midwest and East Coast are learning right now, wildfire smoke can travel very far distances and impact large populations. To best protect health, people should avoid spending too much time outdoors right now, especially young children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with heart or lung disease," she said.

More than 100 million people affected by air quality alerts

According to EPA spokesperson Shayla R. Powell, the EPA estimates that "more than 100 million people are affected by air quality alerts today, ranging from Code Orange (Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups) and above. This area includes much of the Northeast U.S. – extending to Philadelphia to Chicago to the west and Atlanta to the south.

"We expect that air quality in this area is predominantly impacted by the Canadian wildfires, although more localized pollution emissions and meteorology may also play a factor," Powell said.

Canada wildfire smoke updates: At least 100 million Americans affected by air quality alerts (1)

Smoke causes air travel problems in NYC

The Federal Aviation Administration had halted all inbound flights to New York's LaGuardia airport early Wednesday afternoon due to the wildfire smoke, but lifted that restriction by late afternoon. However, delays remained at the airport.

Meanwhile, at Newark's Liberty Airport, the airport reported that low visibility was leading to a ground stop for some arriving flights.

The FAA also said the extreme wildfire smoke haze lingering over the Northeast U.S. due to Canadian wildfires could delay flights through Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., CNN reported.

Northeastern U.S. residents urged to limit outdoor activities

Among parts of the northeast, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Controlissued a Code Red Air Quality Alert Wednesday that will be in effect across the state through Thursday.

And neighboring states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, will be under a Code Orange, according to WPVI-TV. The alerts could change as the smoke passes through the northeast region.

But for now, experts including Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole told the station Wednesday that residents should try limiting their outdoor exposure.

"These are very very fine particulates that can be breathed very deep into the lungs, and they can do damage to the lung," Bettigole said. "It can sometimes get into your bloodstream."

A similar warning was heeded in the Washington, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area, said Hannah Winnant, deputy director of the Arlington County Emergency Management, to WJLA-TV on Wednesday.

Winnant advised residents to stay home if possible.

"People who are more at risk for poor air quality, for example, people with asthma, the elderly or very young children should absolutely consider staying inside," Winnant told the station. "But we advise this for everyone."

Wildfire, smoke map for US, Canada

Brownish haze descends on New York City

Hazy skies blanketed New York on Wednesday afternoon as smoke permeated the city’s air. For some New Yorkers, the poor air quality meant the return of masks and a flashback to the pandemic era.

From Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, where the Manhattan skyline is usually easily seen, the towers were barely visible through the brown haze. It seemed more like a foggy morning than an early June afternoon.

Mikael Haxby, 43, was walking his dog toward the waterfront, a medical facemask strapped tight over his mouth and nose. He said he had a burning feeling in his throat. “I’m somewhat used to wearing the mask," he said. "It’s more just like the air quality is bad.” He said his child would have recess inside Wednesday, as all city schools had announced.

Plenty of others went maskless, however, and some were donning the “chin strap” former Gov. Andrew Cuomo once chided during his daily pandemic press conferences.

Amid the haze, public gathering spots sat mostly empty. A popular outdoor brunch restaurant, usually bustling even on a weekday, looked deserted. McCarren Park, home to the neighborhood track, had only a few joggers.

"I was actually coughing,” Deborah Gross, 29, said, from behind her white N-95 mask. She was late to meet a friend because she had to stop into a drug store to buy a mask, a move that reminded her of riding out the pandemic in the city. “I saw people wearing masks on the street," she said, "and I was like, 'Whoa, throwback.’”

— Anna Kaufman

How long will the poor air quality last?

The weather service said the wind trajectory that allowed smoke and hazy conditions to be seen in the New York City area could continue for the next few days.

The smoky air will then work its way west over the next couple of days, AccuWeather said.

“On Thursday and Friday, the worst smoke and related air quality is expected to shift west across the Great Lakes and parts of Ohio Valley and interior Northeast including the cities of Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Detroit," said AccuWeather director of forecasting operations Dan DePodwin.

What are air quality alerts?

Air quality alerts are indicators the air is unsafe to breathe for certain people. Alerts are triggered by a number of factors, including the detection of fine-particle pollution — known as “PM 2.5” — which can irritate the lungs.

Pollution is detected by a system of monitors on the ground “constantly taking measurements of the amount of chemicals and particles in the air,” said Susan Anenberg, professor and department chair of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University.

'Impossible ... to escape it' for people experiencing homelessness

As much of the Northeast is blanketed in a haze of smoke drifting down from hundreds of Canadian wildfires, people are being told to stay inside as much as possible on Wednesday.

That’s not so easy for people experiencing homelessness, advocates say.

“For our neighbors living outside, it's impossible for them to escape it,” said Jesse Rabinowitz, senior manager for policy and advocacy at the nonprofit Miriam’s Kitchen in the nation’s capital.

Some of the cities most impacted by unhealthy air quality from the fires also see some of the highest rates of homelessness in the country.

Parts of New York City and Washington, D.C., hovered between a red and purple air quality designation during the day, according to That means the air is unhealthy for the general population, and people are recommended to reduce physical activity and consider going indoors. School children were kept inside for recess. Anyone with additional health risks should move all their activities indoors, officials said.

“There are hundreds of our neighbors who don't have a choice but to stay outside, which must compel us to end homelessness and ensure that everyone has the housing that they need to thrive,” Rabinowitz said.

Jeanine Santucci

'I can taste the air'

Folks across the eastern U.S. and in Canada were coping as best as possible with the smoke-filled air. “I can taste the air,” Dr. Ken Strumpf said in a Facebook post from Syracuse, New York, which was enveloped in an amber pall. The smoke, he later said by phone, even made him a bit dizzy.

In Baltimore, where officials warned residents to stay indoors when possible, Debbie Funk sported a blue surgical mask as she and husband, Jack Hughes, took their daily walk. “I walked outside this morning and it was like a waft of smoke,” said Funk, who said the couple had considered skipping the walk but wanted some exercise.

In Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Zachary Kamel said, “the smoke was insane yesterday. I had to close my window because the fresh air just smelled like campfire."

US air quality index map

More:Photos show eerie hazy skylines, glowing sunrises across US from Canada wildfires

Contributing: Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY; The Associated Press


What areas are affected by Canada wildfire smoke? ›

At points, it was hazardous to breathe everywhere from Minnesota and Indiana to sections of the Mid-Atlantic region and the South, according to AirNow, a U.S government data source. Visibility decreased to startling degrees in many cities, including New York, Toronto, Cincinnati and elsewhere.

Are forest fires still burning in Canada? ›

As forecasts anticipated, the smoke in the U.S. has fluctuated, but the fires in Canada are still burning.

How bad are the fires in Canada? ›

'Unprecedented' fire season

Nearly 8.5 million hectares (21 million acres) of land have been scorched so far. “The fires in Canada are really quite unprecedented,” Chief Ken McMullen, the president of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC), told Al Jazeera.

How bad is the air pollution in Canada? ›

Canada - States Air Pollution Level
Northwest TerritoriesGOOD10
Nova ScotiaGOOD16
6 more rows

How much of Canada is burning? ›

The fires have scorched at least 7.8 million hectares — or around 19.2 million acres — of land across Canada since the start of this year, according to the fire agency. The acreage has surpassed the previous annual record from 1989, reported by the National Forest Database.

Where are the wildfires in Canada at? ›

Fires are now burning in every Canadian province except for Prince Edward Island and Nunavut, a frigid northern region where trees cannot survive. The amount of land consumed is also striking – more than 4.4m hectares has burned so far this year (2.7m since the start of the fire season).

How long will Canada wildfires last? ›

Canada's annual wildfire season typically goes from May to October, though it's rarely this destructive this early. Some of this year's earliest wildfires began at the start of May and have kept burning in the months since. Historically, the wildfire season peaks in July and August and is over by the end of October.

Why are Canadian fires still burning? ›

The weather, and climate change, are a factor

“Scientists say that climate change is making weather conditions like heat and drought that lead to wildfires more likely,” the BBC reported in June. “Spring in Canada has been much warmer and drier than usual, creating a tinder-dry environment for these vast fires.”

What is the leading cause of forest fires in Canada? ›

How did the fires in Canada start? Dry, hot weather also breeds more lightning. In a normal season, half of Canada's wildfires are started by lightning, but those fires account for more than 85% of wildfire destruction. The other half are human-caused.

Are wildfires in the US getting worse? ›

According to the EPA, the number of fires in the U.S. increased from the 80s to the 90s but has stayed fairly consistent since then. However, the number of acres burned has steadily increased over the decades in the U.S. It is important to note that wildfire numbers typically fluctuate from year to year.

Which country has the worst fires in the world? ›

List of largest fires of the 21st century
12019–2020 Australian bushfire seasonAustralia
22021 Russia wildfiresRussia
32023 Canadian wildfiresCanada
42019 Siberia wildfiresRussia
10 more rows

What is Canada's fire season? ›

In Canada, wildfires or forest fires are common in forested and grassland regions from May to September, which can cause extensive damage and put lives in danger.

Is Canada's air quality better than the US? ›

The disturbing but undeniable conclusion reached by this study is that Canada provides weaker protection for human health from the negative effects of air pollution than the U.S., Australia, or the European Union.

Does America have more pollution than Canada? ›

It may surprise you, but Canada is the top polluter per person in the world, followed by America and Russia. China has over 1.3 billion more people than Canada, yet the average Canadian emits far more greenhouse gas emissions – by 24 metric tons in 2014.

How much of Canada is green? ›

In 2022, 72% of the land area of 1,016 cities and towns across Canada was classed as green.

Are wildfires increasing in Canada? ›

Canada has surpassed its record for the largest area burned by wildfires in a single year. The blazes have burned more than 8.1m hectares (20m acres) across the country - 21 times above the average over the last decade. There are currently 483 wildfires across Canada.

Where are the Canadian wildfires 2023? ›

As the worst wildfire season in recorded Canadian and North American history, eleven provinces and territories have been affected, with large fires in Alberta, Nova Scotia and Ontario and Quebec.

Where in the world has the most wildfires? ›

Wildfires occur all over the world. Forested areas, grasslands, and shrublands in places such as the United States, Canada, Australia, Western Cape of South Africa, and Southern Europe are particularly susceptible, especially if the area is experiencing an extended period of drought and high temperatures.

Where are wildfires most common in the US? ›

California is the most wildfire-prone state in the United States. In 2021, over 9,000 individual wildfires burned in the Southwestern state ravishing nearly 2.23 million acres. California accounted for roughly 31 percent of all acres burned due to wildland fires in the U.S.

What is the longest lasting wildfire in the world? ›

The Chinchaga Fire started in logging slash in British Columbia, Canada, on 1 June 1950 that grew out of control and ended five months later on 31 October in Alberta; in that time, it burned approximately 1.2 million hectares (3 million acres) of boreal forest.

Can wildfires end naturally? ›

In order to put out a fire, fuel, heat, or oxygen must be removed. A good rain or a natural barrier can be enough for a wildfire to stop naturally. If this fails, a professional team of firefighters will step in to fight the fire, responding to many sides of the triangle simultaneously.

How common are house fires Canada? ›

Related items. There are about 24,000 house fires each year in Canada, resulting in an average of 377 deaths and 3,048 injuries per year.

Why are wildfires so hard to put out? ›

The main reason wildfires can get out of control is quick spread and a lack of detection. Firewatch towers, aerial detection, and other methods are only so effective at identifying new fires on flammable land.

Are kitchen fires the leading cause of home fires in Canada? ›

Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries in Canada.

Are fires increasing worldwide? ›

Although wildfires occur naturally and play a long-term role in the health of these ecosystems, changing wildfire patterns threaten to upset the status quo. Multiple studies have found that climate change has already led to an increase in wildfire season length, wildfire frequency, and burned area.

What is causing the wildfires in Canada 2023? ›

A not-insignificant chorus of Canadians blame the 2023 wildfires sweeping across the country on arson. But the truth is lightning and carelessness cause the majority of wildfires, made more likely by heat and dry conditions caused by climate change. Space lasers.

What country has the most forest fires per year? ›

1. California, Washington, and Oregon – United States.

Where are the most wildfires prone in Canada? ›

The highest risk of wildfires is labelled as "extreme," a category that includes a fast-spreading, high-intensity fire that does not respond to suppression tactics from fire crews. Portions of B.C., Alberta and northern Saskatchewan are under these conditions.

What US state gets the most fires? ›

California has had the most wildfires and the largest number of acres burned over the past five years. In California, 43,843 wildfires burned 8.7 million acres from 2018 to 2022.

What is the largest cause of wildfires in the US? ›

Humans and Wildfire

Nearly 85 percent* of wildland fires in the United States are caused by humans. Human-caused fires result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, equipment use and malfunctions, negligently discarded cigarettes, and intentional acts of arson.

Are wildfires getting better or worse? ›

According to NASA, wildfires across the world are getting worse. There has been a clear increase in size, number and intensity worldwide. In addition, the number of acres burned has increased through the years.

What country has the best firefighters in the world? ›

The Vigili del Fuoco were named the world's best firefighters at a competition known as 'the firefighting Oscars', in recognition of their work in assisting the earthquake-hit population of central Italy.

Which countries have the best fire safety? ›

Singapore is the safest country in the world when it comes to fire risk, according to the FM Global Resilience Index. The US, which was broken down into three geographic zones, came second globally in the fire risk resilience category.

Is Canada in the Ring of Fire? ›

The Ring of Fire is a vast, mineral-rich region located in the remote James Bay Lowlands of Northern Ontario, Canada. Spanning approximately 5,000 square kilometres (1,900 sq mi), the area is rich in chromite, nickel, copper, platinum group elements, gold, zinc, and other valuable minerals.

What are 3 causes of wildfires? ›

Fire Cause
General CauseSpecific Cause
CampfireCooking, warming, bonfire
SmokingCigarette, cigars, pipes, and matches/lighters used for lighting tobacco
Fire useDebris burning, burning ditches, fields or slash piles, etc.
IncendiaryArson, illegal or unauthorized burning
6 more rows

Is it better to live in US than Canada? ›

While the USA offers better salary packages, Canada has better healthcare, more maternity leaves and other social benefits. Average work hours for Canada is slightly higher than that of the US. The annual leave structure of both countries is similar.

Is Canada a better place to live than USA? ›

Additionally, Canada offers a strong social safety net and a high standard of living, while the United States is known for its economic opportunities and cultural diversity. When it comes to education, both countries offer high-quality options. However, there are some differences to consider.

Who has the worst air quality in the US? ›

Los Angeles air pollution. Los Angeles has the most contaminated air in the country. With a population of roughly over 10 million, the Los Angeles area is a large basin with the Pacific Ocean to the west and bounded prominently on the north and east by the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains.

What is the biggest polluter in Canada? ›


In Canada, mining was responsible for more than half (54 per cent) of all reported industrial pollutants in 2020, trailed by oil and gas extraction (16 per cent), utilities (7 per cent), primary metal manufacturing (6 per cent) and petroleum and coal products manufacturing (five per cent).

What is the biggest cause of pollution in Canada? ›

Reducing Emissions from Transportation

Transportation is one of the largest sources of air pollution and greenhouse gases in Canada.

What is the largest contributor to air pollution in Canada? ›

Transportation is one of the main sources of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. Cars, trucks, trains and aeroplanes all contribute to air pollution, and they are responsible for more than a quarter of all greenhouse gases and air pollutant emissions in Canada.

What are the 5 worst states to live in for air quality? ›

The ten most polluted states in the US are California, Arizona, the District of Columbia, Utah, Nevada, Illinois, Colorado, Oklahoma, Iowa, and Wyoming. California has the worst air quality in the US with only 60.60% of good air quality days.

Where is the purest air in the world? ›

Zurich, Switzerland

The cleanest air in the world is in Zurich. The pollution status is determined on the basis of average levels of PM2. 5 measured over a period of 12 months. And this Swiss city obtained an annual value of 0.51 µg / m3, which makes it the lowest in the world.

What regions are most affected by wildfires? ›

U.S. States Most Impacted by Wildfires in 2022
  • Nevada. Total acres burned: 58,402. ...
  • Kentucky. Total acres burned: 59,199. ...
  • Nebraska. Total acres burned: 76,534. ...
  • Kansas. Total acres burned: 84,015. ...
  • Arizona. Total acres burned: 124,165. ...
  • Montana. Total acres burned: 137,509. ...
  • Florida. Total acres burned: 339,783. ...
  • Washington.

What is the most affected region due to wildfires? ›

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, California leads the country with the most wildfires and number of acres burned. California-specific charts below on the Top 10 largest, most destructive, and deadliest wildfires.

What communities are most affected by wildfires? ›

Communities that are mostly black, Hispanic or Native American experience 50 percent greater vulnerability to wildfires compared with other communities.

Where are the wildfires in Canada 2023? ›

As the worst wildfire season in recorded Canadian and North American history, eleven provinces and territories have been affected, with large fires in Alberta, Nova Scotia and Ontario and Quebec.

What U.S. state has the most active wildfires? ›

Which state has the most wildfires? The state of California sees the most wildfires than any other state in the U.S. In 2021, over 2.5 million acres burned in the Golden State, as well as 3,629 structures. How often do wildfires occur?

What state gets the worst wildfires? ›

California is the most wildfire-prone state in the United States. In 2021, over 9,000 individual wildfires burned in the Southwestern state ravishing nearly 2.23 million acres. California accounted for roughly 31 percent of all acres burned due to wildland fires in the U.S.

What is the most fire prone country in the world? ›

Eastern Australia is one of the most fire-prone regions of the world, and its predominant eucalyptus forests have evolved to thrive on the phenomenon of bushfire. However, the fires can cause significant property damage and loss of both human and animal life.

What populations are affected by wildfires? ›

Which Populations Experience Greater Risks of Adverse Health Effects Resulting from Wildfire Smoke Exposure?
  • People with asthma and other respiratory diseases.
  • People with cardiovascular disease.
  • Children (< 18 years of age)
  • Pregnant people.
  • Older adults.
  • People of low socio-economic status.
  • Outdoor workers.

What states are having wildfires right now? ›

Current Wildfires Burning in the U.S.
  • Arizona. 35 fires. 7,370 acres.
  • Oregon. 6 fires. 3,520 acres.
  • California. 39 fires. 1,042 acres.
  • Colorado. 17 fires. 417 acres.
  • Washington. 50 fires. 287 acres.
  • Wyoming. 1 fires. 22 acres.
  • Montana. 5 fires. 5 acres.
  • Oklahoma. 3 fires. 0 acres.

What continent has the most wildfires? ›

Fire ecologists have dubbed Africa a "continent of fire" because of its widespread annual patterns of burning.


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