Canadian wildfire smoke invades US again prompting air quality alerts in Midwest

MINNEAPOLIS – Canada’s wildfire season has erupted as dozens of blazes burn in the country’s western provinces, and smoke from those fires is choking the skies over the Upper Midwest early this week.

The Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul in Minnesota claimed the worst air quality in America on Monday after winds carried the smoke southeastward into the northern U.S.

Cities with the worst air quality in the U.S. right now.
(FOX Weather)

Hazy skies were first seen Sunday over parts of northern Minnesota before spreading farther south into the Twin Cities overnight.

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The air quality index (AQI) in Minneapolis reached the “unhealthy” category Sunday night and has remained there through Monday.

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The air quality trend in Minneapolis.
(FOX Weather)

Many other communities throughout Minnesota, particularly in central and southern portions of the state, are also experiencing unhealthy AQI readings. The unhealthy air has also spread south and eastward into parts of Iowa and Wisconsin.

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The current air quality index over the Upper Midwest.
(FOX Weather)

As a result, air quality alerts have been issued for portions of Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin on Monday.

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The current air quality alerts in the Upper Midwest.
(FOX Weather)

Computer forecast models show the smoke hugging the Upper Midwest through Monday as it also spreads into the northern Great Lakes.

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A look at the smoke forecast at the time indicated in the upper left.
(FOX Weather)

Wildfires in western Canada force thousands from homes

The combination of warm temperatures and an ongoing drought have helped fuel several fires in western Canada, which has prompted thousands to leave their homes.

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A map showing the active large wildfires burning in Canada.
(FOX Weather)

One of the largest fires burning in the province of British Columbia is called the Parker Lake Wildfire. The blaze exploded over the weekend and has now burned more than 13,000 acres as of Monday. The British Columbia Wildfire Service has identified the blaze as “out of control,” noting that it continues to spread and could breach the current control line.

Local authorities urged the entire town of Fort Nelson to evacuate and use as few vehicles as possible in an effort to conserve fuel in the region about 400 miles east of Juneau, Alaska.

“Conditions in many parts of B.C., and especially in the Prince George Fire Centre (PGFC), are unseasonably dry and more typical of those observed in the late summer. As a result, fuels are more susceptible to ignition and wildfires can spread more quickly,” the British Columbia Wildfire Service said.

Large wildfires are also burning in neighboring Alberta, where thick smoke and poor air quality have been experienced in large parts of the province.

An evacuation alert was issued for Fort McMurray in Alberta as crews respond to what they describe as an “out-of-control wildfire” southwest of town that has burned more than 16,200 acres as of the latest report.

Additionally, authorities are monitoring fires that have rekindled since the historic firestorm of 2023, which burned more than 45 million acres.

The latest North America Drought Monitor showed nearly half of Canada is in drought conditions, with the driest regions being located in the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia.

A map showing the current Drought Monitor in Canada.
(FOX Weather)

An El Niño regime caused extensive snowfall deficits across much of the country, potentially setting up regions for another record-breaking fire season.

“We know from the forecasts that in western and northern Canada, because of a dry winter because of some challenges that are going to be faced, it is likely to be a very bad forest fire season,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said while visiting British Columbia last week.

In 2023, hundreds of fires in Canada contributed to some U.S. cities seeing their worst air pollution of all time and creating an orange haze in hazardous conditions.

Some Major League Baseball games were postponed, and local health authorities encouraged residents to wear face masks if they ventured outdoors.

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