Historically severe wildfires ravaging Nova Scotia on Canada’s east coast are having a severe impact on air quality as far south as Virginia and Maryland, the US National Weather Service has warned.
Four wildfires destroyed hundreds of buildings and homes and displaced tens of thousands of people, hitting the municipality of Halifax hard. But the fires have also sent smoke billowing over New York City, and prompted officials from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia to report negative effects on air quality.
The Chester County, Pennsylvania Department of Health warned that “smoke and haze from wildfires in Canada continues to linger” and that air quality may be unhealthy for young children, the elderly and people with respiratory issues.
Earlier in the week, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, saw plumes of smoke billowing from the fires the United States’ neighbors to the north were battling.
The National Weather Service in Wakefield, Virginia, 164 miles (263 km) south of Washington, issued an air quality alert Friday for the Richmond area due to smoke from wildfires.
Saint Mary’s County in Maryland too chirp It could be the air quality [affected] of the ongoing wildfires in southeastern Canada.” Officials urged residents to get emergency help by calling 911 if they notice smoke or the smell of smoke.
About 16,000 Canadian residents in and around Halifax have been asked to leave the area for their own safety. Officials confirmed that at least half of the Halifax fires have been contained and have not increased since Wednesday, but they are still burning fiercely.
Halifax Deputy Fire Chief David Meldrum said officials have completed an inventory of damaged and destroyed property. But the authorities were not immediately able to disclose information about the number of damaged properties.
In nearby Shelburne, a county of 1,300 residents, residents were forced to leave the area. Among the facilities evacuated was the Roseway Municipal Hospital.
Despite a ferocious defensive fire-fighting force relying on water launchers and air tankers, the great Barrington Lake, which had grown in size to more than 77 square miles (200 km2), caught fire.
No dropping temperatures or steady rain was expected until late Friday, though the forecast called for some intermittent rain during the day, giving officials hope that the efforts of those grappling with the wildfires will be supported.
The Associated Press contributed to this report