Wildfire haze returns, bringing smoky smell and unhealthy air to region

Phenomenon forces cancellation of outdoor performance in Moorhead

Smoky air from Canadian wildfires fills downtown Fargo on Thursday, July 29, 2021. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO — The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued an Air Quality Alert for fine particle pollution for much of Minnesota, including the Fargo-Moorhead area, which will be in effect through 3 p.m. Friday.

According to the alert, air quality in some places was expected to reach unhealthy levels for sensitive members of the public as well as the general public.

The odor of wood smoke was evident in the air around Fargo-Moorhead Thursday as northerly winds carried a cold front through the area, along with smoke from wildfires in Ontario and Manitoba that spread across Minnesota and the eastern edge of North Dakota.

Wildfire smoke stormtracker graphic
Source: StormTracker.


The smoke forced the cancellation of Thursday night's Moorhead performance of the Trollwood Performing Arts School’s current production of “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” according to a release from the school, which said the decision was made after consulting with the North Dakota State University Climate Office and Fargo Cass Public Health.

According to the National Weather Service, smoke will remain over much of Minnesota into Friday, with a brief period of heavy smoke expected to impact north-central and northwestern Minnesota early Thursday.

Across north-central and northwestern Minnesota, fine particle levels are expected to reach the red Air Quality Index category, a level considered unhealthy for everyone, according to an air quality alert issued by Minnesota pollution control authorities.

The area includes Fargo-Moorhead, Detroit Lakes, Bemidji, and the Grand Forks-East Grand Forks area.


Under the Air Quality Alert people in sensitive groups, such as people with lung disease, heart disease, and children and older adults, are advised to avoid prolonged or heavy exertion.

The general public is advised to limit prolonged or heavy exertion.

Unhealthy air quality also swirled into parts of central and eastern North Dakota Thursday and by late afternoon "very unhealthy" air quality was reported in the southeastern portion of the state.

Sanford Health and Essentia Health in Fargo did not report an increase in the number of patients experiencing respiratory or other adverse effects due to the smoke Thursday.

Current air quality conditions across North Dakota can be found here.

While hazy conditions are expected to continue into Friday, air quality could improve, at least on Friday, as wind directions are expected to change, clearing some of the smoke from the air, according to StormTracker meteorologist Jared Piepenburg.

Piepenburg said winds are expected to become northerly again on Saturday and possibly Sunday, meaning a return to smoky conditions is possible over the weekend.


Heavy smoke fills the air Thursday, July 29, 2021, over South University Drive, Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Heavy smoke fills the air Thursday, July 29, 2021, over South University Drive, Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at
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