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New York offers aid to Canada amid wildfires: Air Quality Alert extended through Thursday

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  • Staff Report 

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has offered to send aid to Canada in the fight against wildfires that have ravaged the country.

Hochul said that New York is prepared to send firefighters, equipment, and other resources to help Canada’s efforts to contain the fires.


“We stand with our Canadian neighbors in this difficult time,” Hochul said. “We are ready to do whatever we can to help them fight these fires and protect their communities.”

The wildfires in Canada have been raging for weeks, and have forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes. The fires have also caused widespread damage to property and infrastructure.

The Canadian government has said that it is grateful for the offer of assistance from New York and other countries.


“We are facing an unprecedented wildfire season, and we need all the help we can get,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “We are grateful for the support of our friends and neighbors.”

The wildfires in Canada are a reminder of the growing threat of climate change. The fires have been fueled by hot, dry weather and high winds, conditions that are becoming more common due to climate change.

The wildfires in Canada are a tragedy, but they also offer an opportunity for countries to come together and work to address the climate crisis. By working together, we can build a more resilient future for ourselves and for future generations.

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

Latest Air Quality Alert for Upstate New York

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos and State Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Dr. James McDonald issued an Air Quality Health Advisory for the Long Island, New York City Metro, Lower Hudson Valley, Upper Hudson Valley, Eastern Lake Ontario, Central New York and Western New York regions for Wednesday, June 7, 2023.  

The pollutant of concern is: Fine Particulate Matter 

The advisory will be in effect through 11:59 p.m. on Thursday. 

DEC and DOH issue Air Quality Health Advisories when DEC meteorologists predict levels of pollution, either ozone or fine particulate matter are expected to exceed an Air Quality Index (AQI) value of 100. The AQI was created as an easy way to correlate levels of different pollutants to one scale, with a higher AQI value indicating a greater health concern. 

UPDATE ON 6/7/23 @ 12:27 PM:

The air quality index of Syracuse surpassed 400, according to AirNow, which designates a reading above 100 as “unhealthy” to breathe and above 300 as “hazardous”. In Binghamton, about 60 miles south, Mike Hardiman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the city “looks like Mars” and “smells like cigars.”

Speaking to reporters, Gov. Kathy Hochul called the worsening air quality in New York “an emergency crisis,” warning it could last several days: “People have to prepare for this over the long haul.”

“New York City and Syracuse were among the worst places in the entire planet yesterday,” she said. “The bottom line is this: If you can stay indoors, stay indoors.”


FINE PARTICULATE MATTER

Fine particulate matter consists of tiny solid particles or liquid droplets in the air that are 2.5 microns or less in diameter. PM 2.5 can be made of many different types of particles and often come from processes that involve combustion (e.g. vehicle exhaust, power plants, and fires) and from chemical reactions in the atmosphere.

Exposure can cause short-term health effects such as irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and shortness of breath. Exposure to elevated levels of fine particulate matter can also worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease. People with heart or breathing problems, and children and the elderly may be particularly sensitive to PM 2.5.

When outdoor levels are elevated, going indoors may reduce exposure. If there are significant indoor sources of PM 2.5 (tobacco, candle or incense smoke, or fumes from cooking) levels inside may not be lower than outside. Some ways to reduce exposure are to minimize outdoor and indoor sources and avoid strenuous activities in areas where fine particle concentrations are high.

New Yorkers also are urged to take the following energy saving and pollution-reducing steps:

  1. use mass transit instead of driving, as automobile emissions account for about 60 percent of pollution in our cities.
  2. conserve fuel and reduce exhaust emissions by combining necessary motor vehicle trips;
  3. turn off all lights and electrical appliances in unoccupied areas;
  4. use fans to circulate air. If air conditioning is necessary, set thermostats at 78 degrees;
  5. close the blinds and shades to limit heat build-up and to preserve cooled air;
  6. limit use of household appliances. If necessary, run the appliances at off-peak (after 7 p.m.) hours. These would include dishwashers, dryers, pool pumps and water heaters;
  7. set refrigerators and freezers at more efficient temperatures;
  8. purchase and install energy efficient lighting and appliances with the Energy Star label; and
  9. reduce or eliminate outdoor burning and attempt to minimize indoor sources of PM 2.5 such as smoking.

Additional information on ozone and PM 2.5 is available on DEC’s website and on DOH’s website. To stay up-to-date with announcements from DEC, sign up for DEC Delivers: DEC’s Premier Email Service.

The Wednesday, June 7, Air Quality Health Advisory regions consist of the following: Long Island which includes Nassau and Suffolk counties; New York City Metro which includes New York City, Rockland, and Westchester counties; Lower Hudson Valley which includes Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Ulster, and Sullivan counties; Upper Hudson Valley which includes Albany, Columbia, Fulton, Greene, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, and Washington counties;  Eastern Lake Ontario which includes northern Cayuga, Jefferson, Monroe, Oswego, and Wayne counties; Central New York which includes Allegany, Broome, southern Cayuga, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, southern Herkimer, Livingston, Madison, Onondaga, Oneida, Ontario, Otsego, Tioga, Tompkins, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, and Yates counties; and Western New York which includes Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans, and Wyoming counties.


Photo by Christina Sweeney Brown from Canandaigua Lake.

Dr. Daniel Croft, assistant professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of Rochester, recommended individuals sensitive to air pollution to remain indoors as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index (AQI) indicated alarming levels of particulate matter.

The wildfire smoke, carried nearly 500 miles from Quebec by northerly winds, significantly degraded air quality in Central New York.

To provide perspective, Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley studies compared inhaling air pollution at certain AQI levels to smoking cigarettes.

For instance, 24 hours outside in the Finger Lakes under the current AQI is equivalent to inhaling air pollution as harmful as smoking three cigarettes.

The smoke forecast indicates further intensification, with experts cautioning especially those with asthma, COPD, or cardiovascular disease, to limit outdoor activity or use a mask. The Air Quality Alert from the DEC remains active through Wednesday.

More photos from around the Finger Lakes:

From Nick Valvetti at Cooper Farms Nursey.
Photo from Canandaigua Lake by Christina Sweeney Brown.
Jill Andrews captured this shot of the haze over Syracuse.
Hazy view of Lake Ontario by Chris Trine.
Peter P. OConnor captured this shot of a sea gull over Lake Ontario flying through the smoke.
Peter also captured this photo of the waves crashing into the pier at Sodus Point.
Lewis Imagery shared this hazy shot from the village of Bath.
Richard Store captured this shot this morning from the shores of Keuka Lake.