DULUTH — Smoke from Canadian wildfires has caused the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to issue an air quality alert for northern Minnesota, effective Wednesday, July 14, through Friday, July 16, at 9 a.m.

Affected cities include Duluth, Cloquet, Hinckley, Ely, Hibbing, International Falls, Two Harbors, Grand Marais, Grand Portage, Bemidji, Roseau, Moorhead, East Grand Forks, Brainerd, Alexandria and the tribal areas of Fond du Lac, Grand Portage, Leech Lake, Mille Lacs and Red Lake.

Heavy smoke is expected to be transported from Ontario and Manitoba to Minnesota by northerly winds behind a front moving into the northern portions of the state, according to the MPCA. The smoke is likely to remain over Minnesota through at least Friday before southerly winds develop, pushing the smoke northward.

Fine particle levels are expected to be in the Red AQI category — a level considered unhealthy for all individuals — across far northern and western Minnesota, while central Minnesota is expected to be in the Orange category — a level that is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups . Additional smoke is also expected over western Minnesota on Wednesday evening, following a forecasted complex of thunderstorms.

The MPCA warned that this level of air pollution can aggravate heart and cardiovascular disease, as well as lung diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. People with these conditions may experience symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing or fatigue.

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Older adults, children, those with high blood pressure and those partaking in demanding physical activities outdoors may also be affected.

During air quality alerts, the National Weather Service advises that everyone stay indoors as much as possible and refrain from burning. The MDH advises those requiring inhalers to have them nearby and to know their asthma plan. They also suggest that everyone limit their physical activity and stay away from local sources of air pollution like busy roads and wood fires as much as possible.

Anyone with health concerns is instructed to call their health care provider.

MPCA pollution reduction tips

  • Reduce vehicle trips.
  • Encourage use of public transport, or carpool, when possible.
  • Postpone use of gasoline powered lawn and garden equipment on air alert days. Use battery or manual equipment instead.
  • Avoid backyard fires.