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Air quality alerts for Fargo-Moorhead because of smoke from Canadian wildfires

FARGO – Smoke from Canadian forest fires is on the move, prompting Minnesota and North Dakota agencies to issue air quality alerts for areas of both states, including Fargo and Moorhead.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and North Dakota Department of Health are advising people whose health is affected by unhealthy air quality to take precautions.

The alert for western portions of northern and central Minnesota is in effect from 1 p.m. Friday, July 20, through 9 a.m. Saturday, July 21.

It includes the cities of Roseau, Bemidji, East Grand Forks, Moorhead, Brainerd, Alexandria, Saint Cloud and Ortonville, and the tribal nations of Red Lake, Leech Lake and Mille Lacs, the MPCA said in a news release.

At 3:15 p.m. Friday, Terry O’Clair, director of air quality at the North Dakota Department of Health, said he was in the process of issuing an air quality alert for the eastern part of the state, to include Fargo and Grand Forks.

“It’s getting worse,” O’Clair said, of the visible smoke in the air in Fargo, based on reports from workers in the department’s field office.

Air pollution monitors in northern Minnesota are showing a rapid rise in fine particles from the fires in southwest Ontario, Canada. The plume is expected to continue to move south/southwest across the alert area.

The smoke should arrive in the afternoon into early evening from Bemidji to Moorhead, and during the late evening and overnight from Alexandria to Saint Cloud, the MPCA said.

People with asthma or other breathing conditions, heart disease or high blood pressure should limit activities or postpone them.

Those with asthma or COPD should have their relief/rescue inhaler with them.

Children, older adults and people of any age doing extended or heavy physical activity outdoors may also want to take precautions.

Nick Carletta, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, expects the smoke to dissipate sometime Saturday morning and should stay away, for the near term.

Based on the wind forecast and location of the wildfires, any smoke that’s brought back down should be farther east, perhaps affecting eastern Minnesota, he said.

Real-time air quality monitoring can be found at https://deq.nd.gov/AQ/monitoring/ and https://www.pca.state.mn.us/air/current-air-quality

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