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Canadian wildfire smoke creates unhealthy air quality across Pittsburgh area

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Canadian wildfire smoke creates unhealthy air quality across Pittsburgh area 04:57

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- A second straight Code Red Air Quality Action Day has been issued as smoke from wildfires in Canada is making for unhealthy levels of pollution for everyone across the Pittsburgh area.

A Code Red Air Quality Alert was issued by the Department of Environmental Protection for the entire state of Pennsylvania on both Wednesday and Thursday. 

The smoke blanketed the Pittsburgh area, creating hazy skies and a smell in some areas. 

KDKA Photojournalist Ian Smith/Sky Eye 2

PHOTOS: Canadian wildfire smoke blankets Pittsburgh skyline in thick haze

On a code red day, the DEP said young children, older people and those with respiratory problems are especially vulnerable to the effects of air pollution and should avoid outdoor activities. Everyone else should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.  


City to monitor events as air quality forces cancellations

As smoke from the Canadian wildfires hovers over the Pittsburgh region, the air quality has plummeted. 

It reached code purple air quality on Thursday, meaning the air and the pollutants in it were very unhealthy to breathe.

"It's really important that we're mindful of that as we're putting programming together for the city of Pittsburgh," said Maria Montaño, the city's press secretary.

Because of the air quality alerts, the city closed all city pools on Wednesday and Thursday. Several major events were also postponed, including City in the Streets and Set it Off to Summer, which celebrates the new extended hours at city rec centers this season.

City to monitor events as air quality forces cancellations 02:03

Mantaño told KDKA-TV that city leaders have mitigation protocols in place for situations like this.

"We're really looking at the air quality index. We're in conversations with the Allegheny County Health Department, as well as our own internal public health folks here," said Montaño. "Ultimately, the decision rests with the department directors and the mayor."

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has already called a Code Orange Air Quality Action Day for Friday across the commonwealth. However, conditions in Western Pennsylvania could be worse.

The city said it's evaluating whether pools will open Friday and will make a final decision Friday morning.

Meanwhile, there are already new dates for the postponed events this week. City in the Streets will happen on July 5 and Set it Off to Summer will happen on July 1.

By Royce Jones

How long will this pattern of smoky conditions last?

This is the second stretch of hazy and smoky conditions to affect our area in the last month. How long is this pattern expected to continue? 

KDKA First Alert Meteorologist Falicia Woody explains in the video below. 

How long will this pattern of smoky conditions last? 02:39
By Falicia Woody

Moving the fun indoors due to air quality

Since it's unhealthy to be outside, parents have found a way to move the fun indoors at The Waterfront.

"I've never experienced anything like this before," Carol Struzynsky of Pittsburgh said Thursday.

One family from Maryland spent the day spinning around the Urban Air Adventure Park, a fun backup plan to their original vacation plans.

Moving the fun indoors due to air quality 02:21

"We were supposed to be doing some outdoor activities," Amy Florian of Maryland said. "But with the air quality, we had to find something different to do."

The trampoline park has seen numbers skyrocket as families search for safe alternatives to keep their kids busy on these smoky summer days.

"It's always it's a nice alternative whenever you have to deal with dangerous conditions outside," said Kaila Preston, assistant general manager at the park.

Nearly every family inside Urban Air Adventure Park on Thursday said they came to keep their kids from being outside. They added that they have no plans to change that until the air quality improves.

"We live on a couple of acres," Jill Neal of Murrysville said. "So we're always outside, swimming or doing other things. ... We would have been outside more today if it wasn't for the air quality."

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection says we likely won't see much relief until Saturday.   

By Erika Stanish

Code Orange day Friday

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has issued a Code Orange Air Quality day for Friday. It impacts all of Pennsylvania.

"On a Code Orange Air Quality Action Day, children, sensitive populations such as older people, those who exercise or work outdoors and those with lung or respiratory conditions such as asthma, emphysema, or bronchitis should reduce or eliminate their outdoor activities," the state said. 

By Michael Guise

Millions under air quality alert ahead of holiday travel

The heavy smoke is surprising many travelers getting ready for the holidays. 

Across the nation, airports are buzzing with people trying to travel for the upcoming holiday, but this blanket of smoke is adding a new obstacle for travelers.

The air quality alert is impacting nearly 120 million people. Despite the hazardous haze, airport officials predict that holiday travel will still be busy the next few days.

"Things are ramping up a little bit. We haven't quite gotten into the thick of it yet. Yesterday, things started picking up. Friday and Saturday is when we'll see a real heavy load for the weekend. Then it'll be a five-day period from Friday to Wednesday, July 5, where we'll see the peak travel area," said Matt Neistein, the manager of public affairs for the Pittsburgh International Airport.

Read more here.


Pirates delay Thursday's game

The Pittsburgh Pirates delayed their game on Thursday, pushing it back to 1:20 p.m. because of the air quality. 

Shortly before the game's start, the Pirates said they were delaying the game to "consider" the current air quality. 

After talking with the MLB and MLBPA, the Pirates decided to play. 

"We will continue to closely monitor the air quality index levels around the ballpark and respond accordingly," the Pirates said. 

By Madeline Bartos

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy cancels events due to air quality

According to the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Twitter account, numerous events were canceled due to the current air quality in Pittsburgh. 

The Pittsburgh area is still under a code red air quality alert.


PennDOT workers safety during air quality alert

Amidst the air quality alert in the area, PennDOT is ensuring the safety of its workers while working on current projects. According to PennDOT's assistant district executive for maintenance, here is how PennDOT is taking care of its workers:

  • Outdoor operations should be avoided if possible.
  • Make N95 masks available to any crew members.
  • Keep crew members inside the equipment as best as possible.
  • Monitor crew members closely and try to limit their exposure as much as possible.
  • If any crew member working outdoors is not feeling well, move them to an indoor location immediately.
  • Crack sealing operations are canceled for Thursday. 

Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium issues response to poor air quality

Much of the area is still under an air quality alert, due to the Canadian wildfire smoke. The Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium issued this response regarding what they're doing to monitor the situation. 

"We are closely monitoring the animals in our care and the EPA's regional Air Quality Index. At this time, no elevated action is required with our animals, though we continue to evaluate and will make decisions based on each individual's health history and overall risk. We will update our social media pages and website with any new information."


Pittsburgh to close pools once again due to air quality

Once again, the City of Pittsburgh has made the decision to close city pools due to poor air quality. 

This is the second day in a row that Citiparks pools will be closed. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection still has the commonwealth under a "code red" due to the smoke from Canadian wildfires. 

The code red for the area, includes Allegheny, Butler, Beaver, Armstrong, Washington, Westmoreland, and Fayette counties.   

By Patrick Damp

Air quality remains poor due to wildfire smoke

According to the EPA, studies have shown exposure to fine particulate matter can cause premature deaths in those with heart and lung disease. Rates of heart attacks go up on days with poor air quality as well. 

Fine particulate matter also causes damage to stone and rock similar to what acid rain used to do as well. The settling of these particles in our rivers and soils also has an adverse effect. 

Thankfully things will improve and this isn't going to last too much longer. A warm front will sweep through on Friday just before noon, bringing an end to our poor air quality.

You can check out my full forecast right here.   

By Ron Smiley

Air quality and long-term health

When the stuff in the air is thick, the jury is still out on whether or not it will do long-term damage to our lungs. 

"We really don't have good evidence about long-term damage, but it's just wise if you have lung disease particularly, but if you are a young child or elderly, to avoid really going outside on a day like today," Dr. Bill Barker explained. 

As for the healthy, you really shouldn't have to be too aware of your breathing. 

"If they go out and they feel like the air is heavy, or they feel like they're starting to wheeze, or they just can't get all of their air out, it's time for them to come back inside to the cooler air," Dr. Barker added. 

He pointed out that air conditioners have filters that can help protect you from smoke and other pollutants. 

"It can filter out some of the allergens out of the air. get some of the bacteria, some of the mold, and some of the pollen that is in the air and causing difficulties for people," he said. 

Check out my full report right here

By John Shumway

Smoke and fog make for limited visibility in Beaver Co.

Early morning fog combined with the Canadian wildfire smoke made for less than ideal visibility conditions on Thursday morning.

KDKA Photojournalist Dan Vojtko

A thick, smoky fog could be seen near Geneva College in Beaver Falls. 

By Mike Darnay

Pittsburgh skyline blanketed by smoke

Just before 5 a.m., the Pittsburgh skyline was surrounded by smoke.

Smoke from Canadian wildfires blankets the Pittsburgh skyline early in the morning on Jun. 29th, 2023.  KDKA Photojournalist Brian Smithmyer

The city skyline was hardly visible from the West End Overlook. 

By Mike Darnay

Smoky skies could make for travel trouble ahead of 4th of July holiday

Millions of Americans are running into travel trouble as they try and make their way to their 4th of July destination as smoke from Canadian wildfires is impacting numerous parts of the country.  

It's expected to be the busiest air travel day of the year ahead of the weekend leading into the July 4th holiday.

Smoky air could cause travel problems on busiest air travel day ahead of the July 4th holiday 02:30

Officials at the Pittsburgh International Airport say that they are monitoring the situation along with the airlines.

"We're working with our airline partners and in contact with them as well as the FAA to monitor the situation," said Bob Kerlik, Director of Public Affairs for the Allegheny County Airport Authority. 

AAA says that four million people are expected to travel by air over the next few days, an increase of nearly half a million people from last year.

"We want people to arrive two hours before their flight," Kerlik said. "It's going to be a busy weekend, 4th of July, one of the busiest weekends we've seen, certainly since pre-pandemic. So we want people to arrive early for their flight and also monitor the status of your flight with your airline."

By Christopher DeRose

Overnight smoke clouds Acrisure Stadium and PNC Park lights

The night skies above Pittsburgh's North Shore were clouded by smoke as the hazy conditions extend into a second straight day.

Drone video from a KDKA viewer shows stadium lights from Acrisure Stadium and PNC Park washed out by the smoke and haze.

By Mike Darnay

How to keep pets safe from unhealthy air caused by Canadian wildfire smoke

Just like when it's extremely hot or cold outside, the poor air quality from the Canadian wildfire smoke is a problem for pets too.

For tips on protecting your pet, click here


Shaler resident says wildfire smoke set his smoke detectors off

Because of this haze, several Pittsburgh events have been postponed or moved indoors. One family believes the smoke Wednesday may have even set off their smoke detectors.

Thousands woke up to a hazy view. Pennsylvania is smothered in smoke as wildfires in Canada continue to blaze.   

"If you look around, you can just see the haze," said Shaler resident Mark Scoaf.

Scoaf says he woke up to quite a scare Wednesday morning after all the smoke detectors in his home started going off.

He says his air conditioner broke about a week ago, and since then, they've left their windows open to let in the fresh air.

"The fire department checked everything else in the house. There was no internal source for the alarms to go off," he said.

He says he believes it was the smoke outside that set them off.

"The smoke detectors are fairly sensitive and with everything being wide open, I mean, that's about the only conclusion that we're coming to," he said. 

With the air quality in the red zone, the city of Pittsburgh shut down city pools and postponed the City in the Streets event until July 5.

Stage AE is also moving its concert indoors for the safety of those attending.   

"I do think that there's less people out and about," said Pirates fan Scott Renn.

Some visiting the city say they're surprised by just how hazy it is and hope they won't have to reschedule their plans for a second time due to the fires.

"What's kind of ironic is my wife and I were in the Finger Lakes three weeks ago, and the smoke came in there. We couldn't even see the lake. So we feel like we're kind of jinxed a little bit on our vacations." 

By Erika Stanish

Air quality advocates say climate change will lead to more wildfires

It's a different world from 24 hours ago. Crystal clear air over Beaver on Tuesday turned into a blanket of haze on Wednesday.  

Travis Griffith from Beaver Falls described it as "a burning in your nose and throat."  

From all corners of the county, the Canadian wildfire smoke laid a blanket of haze.  

"I've heard about it, but I've never seen it, smelled it. It's bad today," Griffith said.  

According to doctors, most people are not going to be impacted by the air quality. Some sensitive groups including children, older people and people with respiratory concerns had to take caution.  

"Even then, it would usually take more than a passing exposure outside. Just avoid prolonged contact or heavy work outside if you're in that group," UPMC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Donald Yealy said.  

Air advocates say today should be a wake-up call to address the root cause of why we are seeing an air quality issue. They fear this is not going to be the last time we have a problem like this.  

"We can expect wildfires to continue in their severity as well as frequency due to climate change, due to the burning of fossil fuels," Group Against Smog and Pollution Executive Director Patrick Campbell said.  

There were points where parts of Beaver County reached the purple air quality level, which is considered very unhealthy to everyone.  

"It can actually get even worse than this if we don't change where we're headed," Breathe Project Executive Director Matthew Mehalik said over Zoom.  

There have been some questions about wearing masks like during the pandemic.  Doctors say they can be used if you want one. They recommend not using a homemade one for this.  

"It's not a yes or no issue. It's how much protection. I would stay away from the homemade. Stick with the professional and if you can, get a N95. It's the best choice," Dr. Yealy said.  

While we still have this air lingering, it's recommended you use the AC in your house and recirculate the air in your car.  

By Chris Hoffman

Code red for unhealthy air quality issued for Thursday

The Pittsburgh area will continue to see unhealthy levels of pollution on Thursday from Canadian wildfire smoke. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a code red for the area, including Allegheny, Butler, Beaver, Armstrong, Washington, Westmoreland and Fayette counties. 

By Madeline Bartos

Pirates playing game as scheduled

The Pittsburgh Pirates are playing Wednesday's game as scheduled, saying they'll continue to closely monitor the air quality index levels around the ballpark.

The Pirates said they've talked to medical providers, local leaders, the MLB and MLBPA and are still planning to host the San Diego Padres at 7:05 p.m. 

Fans can exchange tickets for a future game by calling 1-800-289-2827 before the game starts. 

By Madeline Bartos

City in the Streets event postponed

Pittsburgh is postponing its City in the Streets event in Garfield because of the unhealthy air quality.

It's been rescheduled to July 5 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the intersection of Penn Avenue and North Pacific Avenue. 

"We urge all of our residents to take the necessary precautions they need to protect their health today," said Mayor Ed Gainey in a news release. "We look forward to being in Garfield on July 5th, and encourage all those who are able to stay indoors as much as possible."  

By Madeline Bartos

Stage AE moving show indoors due to weather conditions

My Morning Jacket is playing at Stage AE Wednesday evening, but now it will be indoors. According to a press release from Stage AE, the show will be moved indoors due to the current weather conditions.


City of Pittsburgh closes all pools due to air quality alert

The city of Pittsburgh has announced that all Citiparks pools will be closed today due to the air quality. 

At the time of the announcement, the city's Air Quality Index was at 242, which is considered "very unhealthy." 

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has extended its issue of a "Code Red Air Quality Alert" through midnight tonight. 

By Patrick Damp

Pittsburgh Pirates issue update on Wednesday night's game amid Canadian wildfire smoke impact

The Pittsburgh Pirates have issued an update regarding their game Wednesday night against the San Diego Padres, as the team monitors the air quality in Pittsburgh. 

"We are monitoring the situation closely."


Staying safe on a day with poor air quality

Experts have said that today's air quality is bad for both adults and children with asthma and other respiratory issues. 

They recommend that you reduce long or heavy work and ideally stay inside as much as possible. 

If you must be outside, take frequent breaks, hydrate, and for kids, keep an eye out for concerning symptoms such as coughing, walking or running slowly, or needing more rest. 

Doctors recommend an N95 mask for days such as today. 

You can also help reduce pollution on a day like today by driving less, not using a gas lawnmower, and using more energy-efficient appliances. 

There was a thick haze in Beaver Falls. People said the smoke is so thick they can "feel" the air.

How unhealthy air impacts people at risk 01:38
By Chris Hoffman

Impact of Canadian wildfire smoke on view of downtown Pittsburgh

The National Weather Service Pittsburgh Twitter account was able to grab pictures of what the view of downtown Pittsburgh looked like on Tuesday morning and compared it to Wednesday morning. This is due to the haze of the Canadian wildfire smoke making its way into the area. 

Stay tuned to KDKA and CBS News Pittsburgh for the latest updates on Wednesday's air quality alert and how it can impact you.


Return of Canadian wildfire smoke impacts air quality

Today is a First Alert Weather Day due to poor air quality. 

For most, a red day is just a current annoyance that will impact you very little.  

For those who have young lungs and are dealing with heart and lung disease, today could be a struggle. Just small tasks outside could lead to being overly taxed and winded.

Here's the thing, it is increasingly looking like we are going to hit the purple 'very unhealthy' level with air quality today with fine particulate matter levels over 200.  

If we hit the purple level, I would expect some pools and other public places would decide to close down for the day.

The good news is that while today's air quality will be poor, things should improve drastically for Thursday with 'moderate air quality' forecast. 

More in my morning weather blog right here.

By Ron Smiley

Parts of Beaver, Mercer counties downgraded into 'very unhealthy' range

Early Wednesday morning, air quality readings in Beaver Falls and Farrell were reading in the purple range of 'very unhealthy.'

By Mike Darnay

Smoke consumes Pittsburgh skies

As the sun began to come up in Downtown Pittsburgh, smoke quickly consumed the skies, making it nearly impossible to even see the city skyline from the West End Overlook.

By Jessica Guay
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