Pittsburgh in “code orange” air quality index as Canadian wildfires rage on


Communications Nova Scotia/The Canadian Press via AP

In this aerial image, an aircraft, center, flies near a wildfire burning near Barrington Lake in Shelburne County, Nova Scotia, on Wednesday, May 31, 2023.

By Ryleigh Lord, News Editor

Canadian wildfire season is in full swing, and the effects are being felt across country, state and city borders. 

Allegheny county has been placed in the code orange air quality index as a direct result of the over 400 wildfires currently raging across Canada in Quebec and Nova Scotia. 

In a statement released on June 6, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said, “Northwesterly winds are transporting wildfire smoke from eastern Canada into Pennsylvania. Air quality monitors across northwestern Pennsylvania are already starting to see elevated readings of PM2.5 over the last few hours. This smoke will continue to move into the region on Tuesday and will likely contribute to elevated concentrations of PM2.5 for periods of time.” 

PM2.5 particles are fine particles — created from events like wildfires — that are small enough to enter into respiratory systems. They are more dangerous for people with compromised immune systems. 

A code orange classification recommends that children, older people and people with respiratory problems should avoid being outside for prolonged periods of time. 

Multiple U.S. states have received air quality warnings and felt the impact of the fires, ranging from Maine to Virginia. Though in some places the effects aren’t as visible, smoke from the fires made the Pittsburgh skies hazier. 

The AirNow government organization recommends that people take more frequent breaks and actively monitor themselves when participating in outdoor activities during a code orange. It’s also recommended to keep windows and doors shut and for those more prone to illness to use air purifiers until the air quality levels are back to normal.