Canadian wildfire smoke reaches Warren County

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry The view of the City of Warren from the Washington Park overlook is obscured Wednesday afternoon by a smoky haze.

Anyone who went outside in Warren County on Wednesday probably noticed the air quality issue.

There was a smell of smoke in the air and visibility was reduced, sometimes dramatically.

According to the National Weather Service in State College, the effect was like being downwind of a giant campfire.

Meteorologist Aaron Tyburski said there are over 200 wildfires in Quebec and Ontario, “belching an incredible amount of smoke.”

“It’s no different than if you were sitting downwind of a campfire – one giant campfire,” he said.

Many of the trees in the area of the fires are black spruce – “the sap in those trees has a flammable component,” Tyburski said.

As the smoke continues to emanate from the fires, it is being pushed in this direction.

“There’s a storm system that’s been sitting off the Maine coast for about five days now,” Tyburski said. “On the western side of that storm, the wind is blowing out of the north.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) declared a Code Red Air Quality Action Day for fine particulate matter across the state on Wednesday.

“Pennsylvania residents should limit their outdoor activities, especially older people, children, those who are active outdoors, and those with lung or respiratory conditions such as asthma, emphysema, or bronchitis,” according to a Wednesday DEP Tweet.

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Air Quality Index (AQI) provides standardized color codes for forecasting and reporting daily air quality. Green signifies good air quality; Yellow means moderate air quality; Orange represents unhealthy pollution levels for sensitive groups of people; and Red warns of unhealthy pollution levels for all,” according to DEP. “An Air Quality Action Day is declared when the AQI is forecasted to be Code Orange or higher. On an Air Quality Action Day, young children, the elderly, and those with respiratory problems, such as asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis, are especially vulnerable to the effects of air pollution and should limit outdoor activities.”

“Residents and businesses within the Air Quality Action Day areas are strongly encouraged to voluntarily help reduce fine particulate matter air pollution by:

Avoiding the open burning of leaves, trash, and other materials; and

Avoiding the use of gas-powered lawn and garden equipment.”

Both the City of Warren and the Warren County School District passed along warnings about air quality on Wednesday.

While the fires are in a very remote area and could burn for some time, the wind patterns should bring some relief in this area soon.

“The next 36 hours will likely be the most intense,” Tyburski said Wednesday. “The rest of today will be probably the worst of it. Slightly better tomorrow, very similar – muted sunshine, smell in the air – but it won’t be as bad.”

“Into Friday, we’ll see conditions improve throughout the day,” he said.

The system off the coast of Maine will no longer dominate the weather pattern as a frontal system is moving in on Saturday.

“We’ll get a little bit of rainfall, as well,” Tyburski said. “Any storm or shower helps collect that smoke and drop it to the ground.”

With otherwise clear skies and temperatures around 70, “If it weren’t for these forest fires, we’d be commenting on how nice the weather is,” he said.


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