Minnesota air quality alert expanded statewide, covering everyone who goes outdoors

State air experts suggest limiting outdoor activities until the smoke clears on Friday

Streams of smoke from fires in western Canada are moving across Minnesota on Thursday, spurring alerts for unhealthy air quality.
Bob King / 2020 file / Duluth News Tribune

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has expanded this week’s air quality alert to include the entire state with impacts expected to affect all people who venture outdoors.

Wildfires across western Canada are sending smoke east and weather conditions are pushing it down across Minnesota through Friday morning.

“A band of very heavy ground-level smoke from wildfires in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan is currently moving along a cold front in northwestern Minnesota,’’ the MPCA said in issuing the alert Thursday morning. “The smoke will continue to move south and east and eventually impact the entire state of Minnesota. The smoke should clear rapidly overnight into Friday morning.”

Fine particle levels are expected to reach the red air quality index category, a level considered unhealthy for everyone, across all but far eastern Minnesota.

Air quality alert
Wildfires in western Canada are sending thick smoke into Minnesota on Thursday, creating unsafe air quality for all people in areas shaded in red and for people with health issues in areas shaded in orange. The alert runs through 6 a.m. Friday.
Contributed / Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Fine particle levels are expected to reach the orange air quality index category, a level considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, across Northeastern and southeastern Minnesota, including Duluth and Rochester.


During air quality alerts due to wildfires, the air is mixed with harmful smoke. Wildfire smoke spreads or lingers depending on the size of the fires, the wind and the weather. This air is unhealthy for everyone.

Anyone may begin to experience symptoms such as irritated eyes, nose and throat, coughing, chest tightness or shortness of breath. Sensitive or more exposed individuals may experience more serious health effects, including worsening of existing heart or lung disease and respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, possibly leading to an asthma attack, heart attack or stroke.

The MPCA suggests Minnesotans reduce outdoor physical activities, take more breaks and avoid intense activities such as sports or strenuous outdoor work to reduce exposure. This can lead to illnesses such as bronchitis or aggravate existing chronic heart and lung diseases, triggering heart palpitations, asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes.

Certain groups experience health effects from unhealthy air quality sooner than others, either because they are more sensitive to fine particle pollution or because they are exposed to larger amounts of it, including people with asthma, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, and those who are pregnant, young or elderly.

Anyone experiencing health effects related to poor air quality should contact their health care provider. Those with severe symptoms, chest pain, trouble breathing, or who fear they may be experiencing a heart attack or stroke should call 911 immediately.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at
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