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A thin veil of haze hung over Yellow Springs and much of the surrounding area on Wednesday, June 7. Air quality in the region has plummeted recently as a result of widespread Canadian wildfires. (Photo by Reilly Dixon)

Haze hangs over Ohio Valley

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Air quality in the Ohio Valley has plummeted in recent days as smoke from widespread Canadian wildfires continues to drift into the U.S.

At press time, a thin veil of haze still hung in the air of Yellow Springs and much of the surrounding region — despite the brief rain showers on Tuesday, June 6.

Owing to the heightened air pollution levels, the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission and Regional Air Pollution Control Agency, or RAPCA, issued an air quality alert earlier this week. At its worst this week, the air quality index read 105 — four points higher than what’s considered healthy for sensitive groups such as children, older adults and people with respiratory problems.

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On Wednesday morning, June 7, the News spoke with meteorologist Christopher Hogue with the National Weather Service, or NWS, in Wilmington, Ohio, who forecasted that the haze will dissipate and move out of the region by Tuesday, June 13, when additional rain showers are predicted for the area.

The forecast indicates next week’s precipitation will follow light northwesterly winds and temperatures in the mid-70s over the weekend.

Hogue added that this Tuesday’s rain may have helped slightly in reducing the haze — as it “grabbed” particulates from the air brought them down — but ultimately, the size of the Canadian plume means it’ll continue moving into the area over the next several days.

In the meantime, RAPCA offered several suggestions on how individuals might avoid negative effects of the poor air quality, as well as how they might avoid contributing to it:

• Sensitive groups should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors.
• Share a ride to work or use public transportation on commutes.
• Refuel vehicles after sunset.
• Avoid using gas-powered lawn equipment.
• Limit driving altogether, as well as idling.
• Avoid burning materials in bonfires, stoves or fireplaces.

Local residents may also do well to extinguish and dispose of cigarettes safely; on March 30, Miami Township Fire-Rescue doused a burning stump on Limestone Street that firefighters believed was caused by a carelessly tossed cigarette.

The wildfires that created the haze came from a week-long Canadian blaze that broke out on Wednesday, May 31, and covered 97 square miles in the eastern province of Nova Scotia, according to the Associated Press. Additionally, winds brought smoke to the area from a 5,000-acre New Jersey forest fire that erupted earlier this month.

Reports indicate both fires were contained earlier this week, though more Canadian fires are expected this year, the Associated Press reported. As of this year, more than 3 million acres have burned in nearly 2,000 fires in Canada. 

As a result of last week’s joint blazes, air quality warnings in the U.S. span much of the Northeast and as far south as Virginia.

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