Wildfires in Canada: the northeastern United States continues to suffocate

More than 111 million people were affected by air quality alerts across a large swath of the northeastern United States on Thursday as wildfires continue to ravage Canada.

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The fires in Canada continued Thursday, June 8 to carry their smoke to the northeastern United States, an episode of rare air pollution which affects more than a hundred million Americans and constitutes “a stark reminder of the consequences climate change,” according to Joe Biden.

Delayed flights due to low visibility, canceled outdoor events, remote schooling… The episode has concrete consequences on the lives of residents.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, more than 111 million people were affected by air quality alerts across a large part of the northeastern United States. The region is not used to this type of smoke, unlike the American West.

Large fires occurred particularly early this year in Quebec, and their smoke is pushed directly south due to weather conditions.

In the capital Washington, the situation is even worse on Thursday than Wednesday, the air pollution alert having gone to “purple” for a time, before being downgraded to “red” at the end of the afternoon. An event celebrating the month of pride LGBT ++ (“Pride Month”), which was to take place Thursday evening at the White House outside, has been postponed, as has a professional baseball game.


The concern mainly concerns the health of fragile people, such as children, the elderly or those with heart or respiratory problems. Emergency room visits related to asthma attacks are on the rise in New York City, a spokesperson for the city’s health department said. But these “a few hundred” patients do not overflow the services, he said.

Impressive images of New York shrouded in orange light circulated on Wednesday, although skies there were clearer on Thursday. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Linda Juliano, 65, as she accepted one of the millions of face masks distributed to New Yorkers. “It reminded me a lot of September 11, to see the sky filled with smoke,” she told AFP, deeming the situation “agonizing”.

Like the one in Washington, the Bronx and Central Park zoos have been closed, and New York public school students will take their classes remotely on Friday. At New York (LaGuardia, Newark) and Philadelphia airports, flights suffered delays due to low visibility, said the Civil Aviation Agency, the FAA.

“Conspiracy Theories”

Global warming exacerbates the risk of fires and their intensity. The increase in temperature, the multiplication of heat waves and the drop in precipitation in places represent an ideal combination for their development.

Although no study assessing the link between the current fires in Quebec and climate change has yet been conducted, “the conditions we see in Canada are in line with the warnings of climate specialists,” said Thursday Stéphane Dujarric, door- word of the UN Secretary General.

Citing both smoke from the fires and an upsurge in flooding across the United States, White House spokesman Andrew Bates slammed the Republican opposition for “adhering to debunked conspiracy theories, denying the existence and nature of climate change”.

Joe Biden, who spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday, promised to help fight those fires. The fire season in Canada this year, which has only just begun, will be “probably the worst in history” for the country, with “tremendous consequences here in the United States”, said the American president.

“Extreme” fires

With nearly 800,000 hectares affected by the fires, according to the authorities, Quebec is experiencing an already historic season. Twice as many fire starts have been recorded since January compared to the average at this time over the past 10 years.

Thursday, the French-speaking province still lists more than 150 active fires, including nearly 90 out of control. New reinforcements – American, French, Portuguese… – are expected in the hours and days to come.

The situation remains worrying in several regions, according to Stéphane Caron, of the Society for the Protection of Forests against Fire: “We are only at the very beginning of this fire season.”

The risks of new fire outbreaks are still significant: without the western part of Quebec, they are considered “extreme” by the authorities. These blazes are high intensity and fast-spreading, so very difficult for firefighters to stop, they explain.

With AFP

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