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Canadian Wildfires Prompt Another Air Quality Alert

BEMIDJI—Because of continued Canadian wildfires, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issued an air quality alert first for much of northern Minnesota on Thursday that includes Bemidji and the Red Lake and Leech Lake reservations.

According to the MPCA, a large area of Canadian wildfire smoke is moving into far northwest Minnesota and will move south and east covering much of the northern half of the state by early Friday morning. Air pollution monitors show a rapid rise in fine particles with values exceeding an Air Quality Index (AQI) value of 100 along with weather observations showing visibility dropping to 2-5 miles in this plume of smoke and expected to continue over northern Minnesota, a release said.

The smoke plume is from fires in British Columbia and Alberta and from wildfires north of Kenora in western Ontario. Periods of smoke are expected to remain in this area through Sunday morning. Officials said that by Saturday afternoon winds will begin to decrease the transport of smoke into the affected region. The southern half of Minnesota will be monitored for an air quality alert Friday night into Saturday.

During the duration of the alert, fine particle pollution is expected to remain at or above a level that is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups. Sensitive groups include:

• People who have asthma or other breathing conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

• People who have heart disease or high blood pressure

• Children and older adults

• People of all ages who are doing extended or heavy, physical activity like playing sports or working outdoors

When the air quality is unhealthy, people with these conditions may experience symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, or fatigue, the release said. If experiencing any of these symptoms, use inhalers as directed and contact a health care provider.

Precautions to take when air quality is unhealthy:

• Take it easy and listen to your body.

• Limit, change or postpone your physical activity level.

• If possible, stay away from local sources of air pollution like busy roads and wood fires.

• If you have asthma or other breathing conditions like COPD, make sure you have your relief/rescue inhaler with you.

• People with asthma should review and follow guidance in their written asthma action plan. Make an appointment to see your health provider if you don’t have an asthma action plan.

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