Canadian fires threaten to impact state later this week

Published 6:25 am Tuesday, June 13, 2023

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Last week, parts of Minnesota were covered under a haze of smoke caused by wildfires in Canada. And while that’s currently not the case, more wildfire smoke coming down from our northern neighbor could impact the area again.

Paige Marten, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service

“At times there are many wildfires that are either under control, or being held at their current coverage or out of control across every single province up in Canada,” said Paige Marten, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. 

According to Marten, there are current fires in Manitoba and Ontario that threaten to impact the state later this week. The reason: It’s abnormally dry and abnormally warm. 

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Those two weather patterns made it conducive to the spread of wildfires.

“It doesn’t take much to get going, and then it doesn’t take much for it to spread,” she said.

And as long as wildfires from Canada remained large and uncontained, they would continue creating smoke, though where the smoke went was at the mercy of the winds and their directions.

That smoke can negatively affect air quality by increasing the number of small particulates in the air a person breathes. Those airborne particulates include dust, dirt, soot and smoke.

According to the National Weather Service, poor air quality is estimated to cause more than 100,000 premature deaths in the country each year, with air pollution-related illness costing $150 billion. 

According to Marten, more out-of-control fires were started in Manitoba over the weekend, and that it would take only a couple of days for the smoke to reach Minnesota.

“We could get kind of those hazy skies again in the short-term,” she said. “Looking beyond [Monday and Tuesday] it’s kind of harder to forecast.”

Marten also noted this year’s fire season wasn’t necessarily earlier than in years past, but it was receiving greater media coverage.

Fires can start for a variety of reasons, including lightning strikes or from sparks generated by a truck driving down the road.

Climate change was not helping either, and she said human-caused climate change was estimated to have doubled the area of forest burned in the western United States between 1984 and 2015.

But determining when fire season started was harder.

“We can see [fires] as early as early spring and as late as late fall,” she said. “I would say the only season that’s not fire season would be in the winter when we have snow-cover and colder air.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to most wildland fire experts, climate change has turned what once was considered a summer problem into a year-long issue.

“It does seem to be expanding from more than just a summer problem to include spring and fall,” she said.

In fact, Marten said peak fire season in the western portion of the United States will occur within the next few weeks and last throughout the summer months.

To deal with the smoke and haze, she recommended staying inside with windows shut when smoke was bad. And when going outside, limit how long you’re out and wear a well-fitted mask. Another health precaution is to set air-conditioning to recycled air when driving.

For an in-depth graphic on air quality, visit the National Weather Services page at