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Canada wildfires bring dangerous smoke levels to Florida

October 3, 2023

Low air quality levels are prompting alerts and advisories in Florida after smoke from wildfires in Canada is closing in on the Southeast.

A smoky haze can be seen over Florida, and it is causing health concerns for residents. Air quality levels in the Tampa Bay area, Central Florida, the Space Coast, Southwest Florida and portions of South Florida are reaching an unhealthy range, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow map.

The Air Quality Index stands at 174 outside of Lakeland, Florida. Anything above 150 is unhealthy for the general public. 

The wildfire smoke in Florida is due to a combination of a low-pressure system over the state from last weekend and a high-pressure system over the eastern U.S. Winds from those systems brought unhealthy conditions as far south as Miami.

Outdoor activities should be light and short. Go indoors if you experience symptoms. At-risk groups that include people with heart or lung disease, older adults, children and pregnant people should limit their outdoor activity.

Smoke is made up of fine particles and gases when wood and other organic materials burn. The particles can get into your eyes and respiratory system and could cause throat irritation and difficulty breathing.

Air quality may continue to deteriorate throughout Tuesday and begin to dissipate Wednesday. A haze may linger across the northern half of Florida through the week.

Canada’s fire severity for the fall is well above average, according to Natural Resources Canada.

45.7 million acres have burned this year alone, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire.

Sources include nearest National Weather Service office, National Hurricane Center, and the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network (@FloridaStorms).
Sources include nearby emergency management agencies, FEMA, and your local NPR affiliate. 
Sources include the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Highway Patrol and other nearby traffic information.

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Partners of the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network include: Florida's Division of Emergency Management, WDNA (Miami), WFIT (Melbourne), WMFE (Orlando), WFSU (Tallahassee), WGCU (Fort Myers), WJCT (Jacksonville), WKGC (Panama City), WLRN (Miami), WMNF (Tampa-Sarasota), WQCS (Fort Pierce), WUFT (Gainesville-Ocala), WUSF (Tampa), WUWF (Pensacola) and Florida Public Media.

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