TORONTO (AP) – Canadian wildfires will worsen smoky air across the country and the neighboring United States in the coming days, as heavy rains haven’t fallen recently in areas of Quebec where the fires hit hardest. is active, officials said on Wednesday.
Drifting smoke from the wildfires has lowered a veil of haze over wide areas of Canada and the United States, reaching into southern Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, and into parts of West Virginia.
Canadian officials say this is the country’s worst wildfire season ever and they expect summer air quality to remain a concern as long as the fires continue.
Fire and environmental officials said it started early on drier land than usual and intensified very quickly, exhausting firefighting resources across the country.
Steven Flisfeder, a meteorologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada, said the smoke would spread over Quebec and Ontario over the next few days and result in poor air quality.
“As long as the fires are burning and the smoke is in the atmosphere, this will continue to be a concern not only for Canadians but for Americans,” Flisfeder said.
Flisfeder said the smoky, hazy skies will continue until the rain helps firefighters do enough to contain the blaze. “It is important to note that the heaviest rainfall did not occur in the areas with the most active wildfires,” Flisfeder said.
The Detroit area saw some of the worst air quality in the United States on Wednesday, as smoke from Canadian wildfires blanketed much of the Great Lakes region and unhealthy haze spread as far south, as Missouri and Kentucky.
Meanwhile, NASA reports that smoke from wildfires in northern Quebec has reached Europe. The US space agency said Monday’s satellite imagery showed smoke stretching from the North Atlantic Ocean to the Iberian Peninsula, France and other parts of Western Europe.
There are 490 fires burning nationally, of which 255 are considered out of control. Quebec’s wildfire prevention agency is reporting 110 active fires.
Canada has already surpassed the record for area burned. Fires are burning in almost every province in Canada. According to the Canadian government, a record 30,000 square miles (80,000 square kilometres) have burned in Canada, an area almost as large as South Carolina.
“This season has been phenomenal,” said Flisfeder.
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore suggests people should make it a habit to check air quality daily this summer.
“Now it’s our new normal to look at all those parameters,” Moore said.
Cloudy skies and acrid air were evident in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, where child care centers and the school board suspended outdoor activities.
About 1,200 vulnerable people from Cree communities are among those displaced who have fled northern Quebec due to wildfires and smoke. Dr. Francois Prévost of the Cree Health Board said the evacuation process has gone relatively well, but added that the situation poses special health, logistical and cultural challenges.