More than 400 active fires were burning in Canada on Tuesday, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre. With 27 new fires reported and 200 out of control, Canada’s wildfires have engulfed the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast for more than a week.
The air quality in New York City was the worst in the world on Tuesday morning, according to the U.S. AQI. By the afternoon, the city’s air pollution levels were among the five worst in the world. Across the Northeast, the National Weather Service announced air quality has “plummeted.”
An estimated 26,000 people across Canada had fled their homes because of the wildfires as of Monday, the country’s minister of public safety Bill Blair said.
At a news conference on Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the national crisis. “This is a scary time for a lot of people, not just in Alberta, but right across the country, including in the Atlantic, the North and Québec, too,“ said Trudeau.
“When people lose their homes, they don’t just lose a roof and their possessions,” he continued. “They lose a special place where they saw their children grow up, where they built a life for themselves. This is incredibly difficult and heartbreaking.”
Air quality in New York is projected to remain at the “unhealthy” level through Friday, AccuWeather reported. Dr. Boris Quennehen, an air quality scientist with Plume Labs, said that Tuesday was the worst air quality the city has endured from wildfire smoke since at least 2019.
“If you can see or smell smoke, know that you’re being exposed,” William Barrett, the national senior director of clean air advocacy with the American Lung Association, told CNN. “And it’s important that you do everything you can to remain indoors during those high, high pollution episodes, and it’s really important to keep an eye on your health or any development of symptoms.”
Barrett warned that “children, senior citizens, people who are pregnant or people with respiratory or cardiovascular diseases” are especially vulnerable to wildfire smoke. New York issued an air quality health advisory Tuesday for fine particulate matter in several parts of the state.
Mayor Eric Adams urged New Yorkers with heart or breathing issues to limit their outdoor activities Tuesday to the “absolute necessities.”
According to ABC, the smoke originated from wildfires in Quebec, where more than 160 forest fires are currently raging. NASA reported that some of the region’s fires were ignited by lightning strikes; high temperatures and dry conditions in the province exacerbated the wildfires, according to fire prevention agency SOPFEU.
Air quality alerts have been sent in 17 states and in cities including Baltimore, Boston, Minneapolis, Detroit, Chicago, and St. Louis.