MPCA: Air Quality Alert downgraded, still in effect through late Friday

MPCA: Air Quality Alert downgraded, still in effect through late Friday

MPCA: Air Quality Alert downgraded, still in effect through late Friday

State officials with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Health Department discussed the current air quality Thursday morning after an alert was issued for the entire day and for nearly all of Friday due to smoke drifting over the state from Canadian wildfires.

During that discussion, it was announced that the alert would be downgraded from unhealthy to unhealthy for sensitive groups.

As previously reported by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) says the alert will last until at least 11 p.m. Friday. A Forecast First Alert day had been issued by Minnesota’s Weather Authority due to how bad the air quality was supposed to be across Minnesota and western Wisconsin, however that has since been expired.

The heaviest smoke was previously forecasted to hit the Twin Cities area late Thursday morning, but that is now expected to be a bit later in the day. The MPCA now says the alert has been canceled for far southern Minnesota, as well as the Arrowhead region.

The worst air quality is expected to be in the orange category, and nothing in the red. In addition to the Twin Cities metro area, the air is considered to be unhealthy for sensitive groups in cities such as Brainerd, Alexandria, Hinckley, St. Cloud, Bemidji, Moorhead, International Falls, Duluth, Hibbing, East Grand Forks. It also includes the tribal nations of:

  • Fond du Lac
  • Leech Lake
  • Mille Lacs
  • Prairie Island
  • Red Lake
  • Upper Sioux

If you are vulnerable to the air conditions and have to spend time outside, experts suggest wearing a well-fitting N-95 mask.

In order to help lower the amount of air pollutants, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources won’t be issuing or activating any burning permits, and add they discourage the use of campfires during the alert period.

“Just a reminder that the majority of Minnesota is also experiencing, you know, I think the map now reads we’re either abnormally dry or some parts are still in severe drought. And so, these are conditions where wildfires can happen really quickly, and we want to be doing what we can do to prevent fires locally as well and watching those drought conditions,” said Jessie Carr of the Minnesota Department of Health.

Carr adds when an alert like this is issued, some key things you can do to protect yourself is to download the EPA’s AirNow app – which allows you to see current air quality conditions, use a N95 mask and not a cloth mask, filter air in your home by using air conditioning and in your vehicles by utilizing the recirculate button.

The situation in Canada has been getting worse and is causing evacuations in some areas Thursday. More than 1,000 active wildfires are burning across the country, and emergency leaders say it’s Canada’s worse wildfire season of the 21st century.

Meanwhile, in the Northwest Territories, air evacuations are now happening, and the entire city of Yellowknife is being asked to evacuate by Friday. There are roughly 20,000 people in the city.

RELATED: Air evacuations are to begin for people in the path of wildfires in Canada’s Northwest Territories

Government officials in the Northwest Territories who don’t have an option of leaving by road should register for the flights out. The evacuation order issued Wednesday night applies to the city of Yellowknife and the neighboring First Nations communities of Ndilo and Dettah.

This summer, Minnesota has sent at least four aircraft to help due to the state’s air also being affected by the wildfire season.