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Air quality alert extended through Saturday

BEMIDJI -- An air quality alert first issued Wednesday that includes the Bemidji area has been extended through Saturday by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

The alert will run through 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 11, and the affected area includes the cities of Bemidji, Alexandria, Moorhead, East Grand Forks, Roseau and Bemidji, and the tribal nations of Red Lake and Leech Lake. Thursday’s extended alert also expanded to include the areas of Worthington, Marshall, Ortonville, and Upper Sioux.

Smoke from wildfires in western Canada continues to impact far western Minnesota Thursday afternoon. While smoke has cleared from the northern portion of the alert area, air quality is expected to slowly worsen once again from Fargo to Detroit Lakes to Red Lake and Roseau into the day Friday, an MPCA release said. Periods of smoke are expected to continue into at least Saturday morning as a high-pressure system arrives. At various times, air quality will periodically decline to levels unhealthy for sensitive groups, officials said. Statewide improvements in air quality are expected on Sunday as winds switch to the south, carrying the smoke back into Canada.

Initially, the MPCA issued an alert Wednesday through Thursday morning for northwest Minnesota.

During the duration of the alert, fine particle pollution is expected to remain at or above a level that is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups. Sensitive groups include:

  • People who have asthma or other breathing conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • People who have heart disease or high blood pressure
  • Children and older adults
  • People of all ages who are doing extended or heavy, physical activity like playing sports or working outdoors

When the air quality is unhealthy, people with these conditions may experience symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, or fatigue, the release said. If experiencing any of these symptoms, use inhalers as directed and contact a health care provider.

Precautions to take when air quality is unhealthy:

  • Take it easy and listen to your body.
  • Limit, change or postpone your physical activity level.
  • If possible, stay away from local sources of air pollution like busy roads and wood fires.
  • If you have asthma or other breathing conditions like COPD, make sure you have your relief/rescue inhaler with you.
  • People with asthma should review and follow guidance in their written asthma action plan. Make an appointment to see your health provider if you don’t have an asthma action plan.

For information on current air quality conditions in your area and to sign up for daily air quality forecasts and alert notifications by email, text message, phone or the Minnesota Air mobile app, visit MPCA’s website at: https://www.pca.state.mn.us/air/current-air-quality.

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