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Are the Canadian wildfires still burning? Here's a status update

Wildfire smoke causing poor air quality in U.S.
Smoke from Canadian wildfires causes air quality issues for millions in U.S. 03:32

The thick smoke and haze that turned the New York City skyline orange in early June and brought some of the worst air quality levels the country has seen in decades was spawned by a series of wildfires burning in Canada. The fires are still burning, with smoke going on to affect states such as South Dakota, Montana and Iowa as well as swaths of the Midwest and Northeast.

The fires, which began in early June and have affected Ontario and Quebec, have impacted Canadians and Americans alike. Canadian media reported that 14,000 people in Quebec were evacuated earlier in June. In Canada, the fires caused thick smoke that led to air quality warnings. In the Northeast, there was a similar effect: Cities like New York and Philadelphia were blanketed in a thick haze that eventually traveled south to Baltimore and Washington, D.C. 

Later in June, the smoke heavily affected the Midwest, with air quality alerts in cities including Detroit, Minneapolis and Chicago.

As forecasts anticipated, the smoke in the U.S. has fluctuated, but the fires in Canada are still burning. Here's what to know about the ongoing wildfires. 

Are the Canadian wildfires under control? 

According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, there are more than 880 active fires across the country. According to a map updated daily by the center, these fires are burning from coast to coast, with blazes heavily concentrated in Canada's eastern and western provinces, on both of the country's East and West Coasts. 

Of those fires, 580 were labeled "out of control" as of July 16. Only 204 were marked as "under control," while another 99 were "being held." A fire being held means it is not moving but still not considered under control, and its status can fluctuate. 

According to the center, there have been more than 4,100 fires this year, resulting in about 10 million hectares (about 38,610 square miles) of land being burned. 

In this image released by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the Sudbury 17 wildfire burns east of Mississagi Provincial Park near Elliot Lake, Ontario, on June 4, 2023. AP

Why are the Canadian wildfires out of control? 

As CBS News previously reported, harsh weather conditions in Canada are fueling the fires and making it harder for firefighters to combat the flames. 

The country is currently at "national preparedness level 5," meaning Canada has committed all national resources to fight wildfires across the country. International firefighters are also flying in: Chris Stockdale, a wildland fire research officer with the Canadian Forest Officer, told CBS News that when smoke from earlier fires affected some central and western states, "international liaison officers" from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa would be flying in to help fight the fires. 

President Joe Biden also said earlier in June that American firefighters would be heading north. 

"We've deployed more than 600 U.S. firefighters, support personnel, and equipment to support Canada as they respond to record wildfires – events that are intensifying because of the climate crisis," he said in a tweet.

Hazardous air quality from Canadian wildfires affecting millions of Americans 04:10

When will the Canadian wildfires end?  

This isn't likely to go away. The Canadian government recently issued an updated outlook for the country's wildfire season, which usually stretches from May through October. The most recent outlook, published earlier in July, said the wildfire season this year is "Canada's most severe on record" and warned that current predictions "indicate continued potential for higher-than-normal fire activity across most of the country throughout the 2023 wildland fire season. This is due to long-range forecasts for warm temperatures and ongoing drought, which are affecting parts of all provinces and territories and intensifying in some regions." 

Smoke rises from a wildfire in Tumbler Ridge
Smoke rises from a wildfire in Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia, Canada, in this screen grab taken from a video, June 8, 2023.   BC Wildlife Service/Handout via REUTERS
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