The thick smoke and haze that turned the New York City skyline orange and brought some of the worst air quality levels the Northeast has seen in decades was spawned by a series of wildfires burning in Canada.
The fires, which began in early June and have affected Ontario and Quebec, have impacted Canadians and Americans alike. Canadian media reported that 14,000 people in Quebec were evacuated earlier in June. In Canada, the fires caused thick smoke that led to air quality warnings. In the Northeast, there was a similar effect: Cities like New York and Philadelphia were blanketed in a thick haze that eventually traveled south to Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
The smoke is expected to gradually blow away from the U.S. East Coast over the weekend, but the fires in Canada are still burning. Here’s what to know about the ongoing wildfires.
Are the Canadian wildfires under control?
According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, there are currently 426 active fires in the country. According to a map updated by the CIFFC daily, these fires are on both coasts of the country.
Of those fires, 232 are labeled as “out of control.” Just 112 are marked as “under control,” while another 82 are “being held.” A fire being held means it is not moving but still not considered under control.
According to Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, there are 34 active fires burning. Half of them were not yet under control as of Thursday evening, the agency said. Eight are being held, one is being observed and eight are under control.
According to Societe De Protection Des Forets, an agency in Quebec, there are 141 active fires in the province. The site does not provide statistics on how many fires are out of control, but does have an interactive map that updates every five minutes with updated statuses.
Why are the Canadian wildfires out of control?
As, harsh weather conditions in Canada are fueling the fires and making it harder for firefighters to combat the flames.
This isn’t likely to go away. The Canadian government recently issued an updated outlook for the country’s wildfire season, which usually stretches from May through October. The most recent outlook, published this week, said that the wildfire season this year is already “severe” and warned that current predictions “indicate the potential for continued higher-than-normal fire activity across most of the country throughout the 2023 wildland fire season due to ongoing drought and long-range forecasts for warm temperatures.”
The country is currently at “national preparedness level 5,” meaning Canada has committed all national resources to fight wildfires across the country. International firefighters are also flying in: Chris Stockdale, a wildland fire research officer with the Canadian Forest Officer, told CBS News that when smoke from earlier fires affected some central and western states, that “international liaison officers” from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa would be flying in to help fight the fires.
President Joe Biden also said earlier this week that American firefighters would be heading north.
“We’ve deployed more than 600 U.S. firefighters, support personnel, and equipment to support Canada as they respond to record wildfires – events that are intensifying because of the climate crisis,” he said in a tweet.
Will ongoing wildfires cause the smoke to return?
The air quality in the U.S. East Coast is expected to improve over the weekend. Even as the fires continue to burn, air quality in New York and other northern areas has begun to return to normal levels.
Jen Carfango, a Weather Channel meteorologist,that the lingering smoke has more to do with a weather pattern.
“We have been in a blocked pattern across North America all week long,” Carfango said in an email. “That kept an area of upper level low pressure stuck over the Northeast. The flow around the low pressure has been guiding wildfire smoke from Quebec into the Northeast, Great Lakes, and even Ohio Valley and down in the mid-Atlantic.”