June 8, 2023 Canada wildfire smoke and US air quality news

By Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Elise Hammond, Tori B. Powell and Alaa Elassar, CNN

Updated 6:11 p.m. ET, June 8, 2023
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6:11 p.m. ET, June 8, 2023

Here's how to keep pets safe amid the wildfire smoke

By CNN's Rachel Ramirez and Kristen Rogers

As parts of the East Coast are expected to experience poor air quality through at least the weekend — and winds might move dense smoke farther south into the Mid-Atlantic — experts say pets could be at risk, too.

Dr. Gabrielle Fadl, director of primary care at Bond Vet Clinic in New York City, said her practice has had a “significant influx of calls” from concerned clients seeking guidance on how to protect their animals from the poor air quality outside. They also received a few calls from patients, particularly pregnant and elderly people, requesting to reschedule appointments.

“Exposure to polluted air can have a profound impact on our pets’ health, leading to respiratory issues, allergies, and even exacerbating existing conditions such as asthma,” Fadl said.

To ensure pets’ well-being, Fadl advised considering the following precautions:

Limit outdoor activities. Reduce the time your pets spend outdoors as much as possible, especially during periods of unhealthy air quality. This can help minimize their exposure to harmful pollutants and allergens, she said.

You also shouldn’t run with your dog outdoors, said Dr. Peter DeCarlo, an associate professor in the department of environmental health and engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

“If you can, just walk a little bit more slowly so you’re not breathing as deeply,” he added. “That can help.”

New York City Emergency Management advised wiping your pet’s muzzle, feet and coat with a damp cloth after being outside.

Create a safe environment indoors. Make sure you have proper ventilation in your home. Keep the windows closed to prevent outdoor pollutants, such as fine particulate matter, from entering. Use air purifiers or filters to improve air quality inside.

Monitor animals’ symptoms. Be on the lookout for any signs of respiratory distress or discomfort in your pets, such as coughing, sneezing, wheezing or trouble breathing.

“If you notice any concerning symptoms, seek prompt veterinary care,” Fadl said.

Consult with a veterinarian. Reach out to a trusted veterinarian for expert guidance catered to your pet’s specific needs. They can also recommend appropriate preventive measures or treatments.

CNN’s Amaya McDonald and Jen Christensen contributed reporting.

2:58 p.m. ET, June 8, 2023

Biden says it's important for those impacted by wildfire smoke to heed guidance from local officials

From CNN's Allie Malloy and Maegan Vazquez

President Joe Biden during a national address in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on June 2.
President Joe Biden during a national address in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on June 2. Jim Watson/AFP/Bloomberg/Getty Images

President Joe Biden said Thursday that it’s vital for communities impacted by air pollution from Canadian wildfires to heed local guidance.

The president, speaking at a joint press conference at the White House with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, said, "It's very important that affected communities listen to the guidance of their state and local officials from this point forward.”

“Check on one another," Biden pleaded to Americans impacted by the smoke, adding that Americans can keep up to date on the air quality at AirNow.gov

A Code Purple was issued in the Washington, DC, area earlier Thursday, and the high-level warning has led to cancelations for schools and activities across the region.

The White House announced that a scheduled LGBTQ+ Pride Month event on the South Lawn would be postponed until Saturday based on the projected air quality in the region.

CNN's Andrew Millman contributed to this report.

2:58 p.m. ET, June 8, 2023

Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo and New York Aquarium closed due to bad air quality

From CNN's Rob Frehse

The Bronx Zoo, the Central Park Zoo and the New York Aquarium are closed today due to poor air quality in New York City, the Wildlife Conservation Society announced

“Due to the continued high air quality index caused by the Canadian wildfires, all the WCS parks – Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, and New York Aquarium – will be closed today, June 8, for the safety of our staff, visitors and animals,” the group announced.

Tickets can be rescheduled for another time, the organization said.

2:54 p.m. ET, June 8, 2023

Philadelphia is still experiencing serious air quality issues, health commissioner says

From CNN's Laura Ly

A pedestrian wears a mask as smoke from Canada wildfires blankets Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 8.
A pedestrian wears a mask as smoke from Canada wildfires blankets Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 8. Hannah Beier/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Philadelphia “continues to experience serious air quality problems related to the smoke from the Canadian wildfires,” and fluctuations in the air quality indexes (AQI) are expected over the next several days, city health commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said Thursday.

“There have been periods during which the air quality index rose to over 300 and even, to over 400, well into the hazardous range,” she said, adding that the AQIs in the city are “changing rapidly, hour by hour." The AQI peaked between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Wednesday night, Bettigole said.

An AQI that falls between 151 and 200 is considered unhealthy, while the 201 to 300 range is considered very unhealthy. An AQI of more than 301 is hazardous.

The city’s health care facilities have not yet reported an overall uptick in patients due to the poor air quality, according to Bettigole.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said city officials are monitoring the situation and have directed all nonemergency personnel to avoid working outdoors Thursday.

All city-sponsored after-school programs, outdoor programming and activities at recreation centers have either been canceled or moved indoors, according to Kenney.

Students and staff within the Philadelphia school district are encouraged to wear masks to and from school and all windows and doors in schools will remain closed, Philadelphia Public Schools superintendent Dr. Tony Watlington said.

Nurses have been deployed to assist the schools if needed and any absences on Thursday, for both staff or students, will be excused, Watlington said.

CNN’s Travis Nichols contributed to this report.

2:27 p.m. ET, June 8, 2023

New York Giants cancel Thursday's practice

From CNN's David Close

After consulting with the club’s medical team, New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll canceled Thursday’s scheduled indoor practice, a team spokesperson told CNN when asked about the impact of the air quality in the area.

There isn't a Friday practice, but minicamp practices are expected on Tuesday and Wednesday, Pat Hanlon, senior vice president of communications for the Giants, told CNN.

CNN’s Jill Martin contributed to this report.

2:23 p.m. ET, June 8, 2023

New Jersey governor urges residents to remain inside as air quality remains "very unhealthy"

From CNN’s Liam Reilly and Laura Dolan

New Jersey residents are encouraged to stay indoors as the air quality in the state remains in the “very unhealthy” range, Gov. Phil Murphy said, adding that the Department of Environmental Protection declared air-quality action days for Thursday and Friday.

"The widespread nature and uncommonly high levels of fine particulate concentrations reaching the unhealthy category is of a historic magnitude," Murphy said at a press conference Thursday.

In three parts of the state, the air quality index (AQI) was above 200, a range that is considered very unhealthy. The highest concentrations of smoke are expected to dissipate over the next several hours, but Murphy warned the haze and smoke will likely get more dense Thursday evening.

All sensitive people — including whose with health conditions like asthma and heart disease and those who are pregnant — as well as children and seniors are especially encouraged to remain indoors.

New Jersey State Police and the Office of Emergency Management are distributing masks to those who need them, the governor said. Masks are available at major NJ Transit locations including Newark Penn Station, Camden, Trenton, Secaucus and Hoboken, he added.

"If anybody has any doubts this past couple of days and what we’re going to be dealing with for the next few days, climate change is here, and unfortunately, this is our new reality,” Murphy said. “It only hardens our resolve to aggressively pursue the bold action our climate change reality demands."

2:26 p.m. ET, June 8, 2023

Biden calls Canadian wildfires a "stark reminder of the impacts of climate change"

From CNN's Allie Malloy

Wildfires in Canada and the smoke moving across the United States serves as another "stark reminder of the impacts of climate change," President Joe Biden said Thursday.

Biden said the Environmental Protection Agency is “continuously monitoring air quality and providing critical updates for each relevant zip code.” He directed Americans to check AirNow.gov for guidance in their areas. 

In addition to sending US aid to help battle the fires in Canada, Biden said he asked Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to keep him informed on the implications for air travel.

Biden cautioned Americans to “stay safe and follow the guidance of your local officials.���

Wildfires and climate change: Human-caused climate change has exacerbated the hot and dry conditions that allow wildfires to ignite and grow. Scientists recently reported that millions of acres scorched by wildfires in the western US and Canada — an area roughly the size of South Carolina — could be traced back to carbon pollution from the world’s largest fossil fuel and cement companies.

And when they burn, the smoke can travel thousands of miles downstream, putting millions more people in harm’s way.

CNN's Derek Van Dam, Robert Shackelford, Jennifer Gray, Monica Garrett and Rachel Ramirez contributed to this report.

1:50 p.m. ET, June 8, 2023

NOAA using satellites to track Canada wildfires and smoke in near real-time

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is using several satellites to measure and monitor wildfires burning in Canada and the smoke blowing into parts of the United States.

NOAA’s geostationary satellites — GOES East and GOES West — are tracking both the fires and smoke in near real-time, the agency said. They can also identify hot spots, detect changes in the behavior of the fire and help determine how large and hot the fire is, NOAA said.

Others, including the Joint Polar Satellite System’s NOAA-20 and Suomi NPP satellites, are measuring data to determine how tall the smoke plume is and predict the direction it may move, it said on its website.

“Their high spatial resolution imager detects smaller and lower-temperature fires and also provides nighttime fire detection,” NOAA said.

The agency said the goal of using all of these satellites and equipment together is to create a comprehensive picture of the fires and the smoke in order to warn people who could be affected. In some cases it could be “life-saving information in a dynamic fire environment,” it said.

By the numbers: There have been more than 2,200 wildfires in Canada so far this year, according to NOAA, putting it on track to have “the worst wildfire season on record.” The fires have burned an area larger than the state of Maryland, it said.

As of Thursday, wildfires are burning in every province and territory in Canada, except for Prince Edward Island and Nunavut, NOAA said. That includes 133 active wildfires across Quebec, according to the area’s fire prevention agency, Société de protection des forêts contre le feu (SOPFEU).

1:41 p.m. ET, June 8, 2023

Schools along the East Coast are taking precautions as Canadian wildfire smoke lingers

From CNN's Liam Reilly and Danny Freeman

Evening commuters travel on Broad Street past a hazy City Hall in Philadelphia on Wednesday.
Evening commuters travel on Broad Street past a hazy City Hall in Philadelphia on Wednesday. Matt Slocum/AP

Schools in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are taking precautions amid the spread of Canadian wildfire smoke and impact on air quality:

  • New Jersey: Newark and Elizabeth school districts closed Thursday due to poor air quality, they said in statements. Jersey City and Hoboken school districts are open but are canceling either after-school programs or outdoor activities and field trips. Montclair and Trenton school districts in New Jersey have truncated schedules due to air quality concerns. 
  • New York: In New York City, kids had planned a day off on Thursday and a school-based staff event scheduled for the day has gone remote due to air quality concerns. New York City Public Schools, the largest school district in the country, will also be implementing remote instruction Friday.
  • Pennsylvania: The school district of Philadelphia, which supports more than 100,000 students, encouraged students to wear masks on their way to school Thursday morning, while the air quality was listed as “hazardous” or “Code Maroon” by Airnow.gov.