Wildfires in Canada cause poor air quality in Manhattan

(Graphic by Catherine Eldridge | Collegian Media Group)

As wildfires in Canada burn with no signs of slowing down, Manhattan residents were left to deal with the consequences of the smoke. 

According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, a change in weather brought down a cold-front from Canada. It also brought all the smoke. Manhattan residents faced poor air quality as a result of the smoke caused from the Canadian wildfires. 

Shawn Byrne, observing program leader for the National Weather Service, described the process of how the smoke led to poor air quality.

“We didn’t have a lot of moisture in the atmosphere, so our depth of mixing was relatively high,” Byrne said. “So, that smoke made its way down to the surface … which then diminished the air quality.”

Rick Brunetti, director of the Bureau of Air, said the poor air quality could cause other symptoms aside from breathing difficulty.

“You breathe in this material and it causes congestion, eyes watering and mucus membranes being irritated,” Brunetti said. 

Noe Rojas Romero, junior in anthropology, said he dealt with psychological conditions because of the poor air quality. 

“The smoke itself did make me uncomfortable knowing I was inhaling it while being outside,” Romero said. “So, I did try to limit the amount of time being outside with the air quality being poor.”

As the wildfires continue to burn, Brunetti said the most frustrating part of this situation is the lack of control Kansas citizens have over these conditions.

Brunetti said the change in the weather pattern is keeping the Canadian air and smoke north of us resulting in an increase in quality of air. Brunetti said it’s that time of the year where Canadian cold-fronts travel down to Kansas, and the best thing to do is remain informed. 

“You can make people aware that these conditions are coming, and to be prepared for them, but other than that there’s just not a heck of a lot you can control in this situation,” Brunetti said.