Canadian wildfire impact to be seen in Pa. sky

Canadian wildfires are more intense than in previous years, and the smoke from those wildfires is making its way across the atmosphere of the United States — including the Northwestern Pennsylvania area in the next day or two.

The wildfires burning in Alberta, Canada, have destroyed more than 700,000 acres of land and required more than 11,000 people to evacuate, according to media reports.

The haze from these fires has been hanging over the state of Michigan, causing air quality alerts, since late last week. The prediction was, with current weather trends, the haze would reach the counties of Forest and Venango by noon Monday.

For McKean, Elk and Cameron counties, a similar time frame is expected. According to John Banghoff, a National Weather Service meteorologist from State College, the extensive smoke currently covering the state of Michigan will be moving toward Pennsylvania.

“With the northwesterly flow behind this cold front, we can certainly expect that there will be some smoke heading into the Pennsylvania area over the next couple days,” Banghoff said. “This will make the sky look milky. With high pressure the next couple of days, instead of the bright blue sky we would normally see, the sky will be a yellowish, tannish color.”

Despite the air quality alerts in Michigan, the impact on Pennsylvania won’t include potential for health issues or changes to our local safety.

“One thing to note, this is not going to pose health concerns. It is not going to be close enough to the surface to do anything to people,” Banghoff noted. “The smoke getting wafted down here will stay high enough in the atmosphere that it won’t pose any health concerns.”

The effect will be seen for more than one day but won’t extend through the weekend.

“Realistically, the smoke will linger in some capacity through Wednesday. Thursday, we will get another strong cold front through to push things out,” he said.

Various locales in Canada have been evacuated as the fire continues to spread, including Keewaywin First Nation, Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi First Nation. The current fire is called Red Lake 23 and had expanded to cover 719 sq. kilometers as of July 7.