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Minnesota Sees Worst Air Quality In 20 Years Due To Canadian Wildfires

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Massive forest fires in Canada continue to cause problems in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) reported that Monday's air quality was the worst that has been recorded in Minnesota in the last 20 years.

MPCA spokesperson Frank Kohlasch says for about 8 hours on Monday air quality was worse in Minnesota than it is in Beijing, China.

While several Minnesotans were out enjoying the clear air again on Tuesday, MPCA cautioned that Minnesota air could be impacted by Canadian forest fires for as long as they keep raging.

St. Paul resident Maijue Lochungbu took her family out for a bike ride on Tuesday afternoon around Como Lake.

"It is great today, but yesterday we noticed the haze," Lochungbu said.

Kohlasch says the smoke was so bad on Monday that it was a risk for everyone, not just the elderly or small children.

"We don't typically see those levels unless something is happening right next to a monitor like a house fire," Kohlasch said.

Even though it would take someone 13 hours to drive from Minneapolis to the area of Canada impacted, Kohlasch says it is not uncommon for Minnesota to feel the impacts of wildfires in Canada or from states on the west coast of the United States.

Monday's conditions were unique, according to Kohlasch, covering two-thirds of the state with a plume of smoke.

Canadian news outlets reported the wildfires have forced more than 10,000 Canadians to evacuate their homes and cities.

Canadian officials are using many resources to stop the flames, but more hot spots keep popping up deep in the forest.

"People here in Minnesota should be prepared to change plans based onthe smoke forecast and air quality forecast," Kohlasch said.

Kohlasch says the threat to Minnesota air quality remains for at least the next week, but possibly throughout the summer depending on how the Canadian fires pan out.

MPCA suggests people subscribe to daily air quality alerts to get a warning about any major changes in the coming weeks.

Kohlasch says based on the federal governments research on the Canadian fires and weather forecasts, Friday may bring another chance at air pollution.

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