Monday, May 20

Smoke from Canadian Wildfires Trigger Air Quality Alert

Smoke from Canadian Wildfires can be seen blanketing Asheboro near the Interstate on June 6th, 2023. (Scott Pelkey / RNN-North State Journal)

ASHEBORO N.C. – Smoke from wildfires in eastern Canada has triggered a Code Orange Air Quality alert across much of North Carolina, and tomorrow will be worse with officials already issuing a Code Red Air Quality Alert for Wednesday.

Wildfires have burned nearly one million acres over the past two weeks across Western Canada, producing incredibly large plumes of smoke that have stretched across the North American continent, making their way into North Carolina throughout today.

The smoke plumes are so large that they were captured on NOAA weather satellite imagery on Monday and can be seen in the video below compiled by the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere at Colorado State.

That smoke is what led the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) Division of Air Quality (DAQ) to issue a Code Orange Air Quality Action Day starting today at noon, running through midnight and tomorrow is expected to be worse, with the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) already issuing a Code Red Air Quality Alert for nearly all of North Carolina.

“Due to rapidly rising levels of fine particle pollution attributed to smoke from active wildfires in Canada, all of North Carolina will be under a Code Red or Code Orange Air Quality Action Day tomorrow, June 7,” said the DEQ in a press release.

The largest concern is particulate in the smoke building up near ground level. According to NC DEQ, “fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5, is comprised of particles smaller than the width of a human hair. These particles can reach deep in the lungs and aggravate asthma and other lung conditions and have also been linked to heart conditions.”

According to NC DEQ high levels of these fine particulates are being carried downwind from Canada and into North Carolina. As the smoke continues to build today and overnight high levels of those fine particles are expected to mix near ground level.

Image provided by NC DEQ

All of Randolph County will be in the area under a Code Red Alert on Wednesday June 7th, 2023, and officials are urging everyone to limit prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors.

Code Red on the Air Quality Index represents unhealthy air quality for everyone, not just people with known breathing problems.

You can monitor air quality across the state using NC DEQ Air Quality Portal online and DEQ’s website has a list of resources for keeping safe around wildfire smoke. 

This is a developing story, and more information will be provided as it is made available.