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Minnesota fire teams head to Oregon to help handle raging wildfires causing haze in Twin Cities

Crystal Bui
Updated: September 15, 2020 05:18 PM
Created: September 15, 2020 04:31 PM

On Tuesday, 29 Minnesota firefighters and nine fire trucks from around the state left Fergus Falls to travel to Salem, Oregon to help fight the fires burning across the state. 

The two task forces, sent to assist Oregon, come from Brainerd, Fisher, Bemidji, Eden Prairie, Motley, Cross Lake, and Spring Lake Park, Blaine and Mounds View fire departments.

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The latest crew joins dozens of other volunteers with the local American Red Cross who are already on the west coast.

The smoke from the wildfires across the west coast is now looming over the Twin Cities. The haze comes as more than 4.7 million acres have burned in ten states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

According to the US Air Quality Index website, “Smoke from western wildfires arrived over the are on Sunday and will remain over the area through at least Tuesday. Fortunately for Minnesota residents, most of the smoke is aloft and most of the smoke is expected to remain aloft again Wednesday [...]  A cold front will be inching southward through northern Minnesota, and sinking air behind the front could cause some smoke to mix down to the surface in portions of northwest Minnesota. The daily average particulate AQI is expected to be Green, but there could be a couple of hours with Yellow AQIs if the smoke does make it to ground level. The front will progress through the rest of the state Tuesday night and the first part of Wednesday. There could be a few hours with Yellow or Moderate AQI before cleaner air works in with a Canadian high pressure. The Canadian high pressure will linger over the area through the end of the week with cool and sunny weather with Green/Good air quality.”

Choking air from Western fires just won't ease up

“It does look as bad. In fact, worse,” said Lynette Nyman, who left Minneapolis on Saturday to work with the American Red Cross in Oregon after seeing so many photos and videos of the wildfires circulating. “When my plane came in and I smelled the air before we even landed, ‘Oh, this is real.’” 

The air is hazy as residents evacuate, many moving into shelters. 

“What I'm hearing from people just even this morning is just this layer of crisis upon crisis. A woman said to me this morning that 2020 was really difficult with the pandemic, and now this. So people who fled, they're grateful that they're fled with their lives, but they feel broken, by the trauma of the pandemic and now the wildfires,” said Nyman.

As of Tuesday night, the AQI in the Twin Cities has reached yellow or moderate levels. 


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