Canada wildfires: Code red air quality warning issued in NYC as hazardous smoke spreads to US

A smoky haze - from wildfires burning in Canada, has been carried with the wind hundreds of miles south - is engulfing some of the world's most famous skylines, as ITV News US Correspondent Dan Rivers reports from Maryland

Smoke from Canadian wildfires has swept across the border, blanketing parts of the eastern US in a dangerous haze.

The pollution from the thick smoke has engulfed some of the continent's most famous skylines and is so severe - even hundreds of miles away - it triggered air-quality alerts.

The thick smoke has affected tens of millions of people, and vulnerable people, including children and those with respiratory problems, are being urged to stay indoors.

It even halted the performance of a Broadway show, as British star Jodie Comer was forced to pause a matinee of her one-woman show, Prima Facie, after experiencing breathing difficulties brought on by the poor air quality.

Wednesday’s performance was stopped approximately 10 minutes in, with understudy Dani Arlington stepping in.

Smoke haze covers the Empire State Building. Credit: AP

In Canada, officials expanded evacuation orders and ask other countries for help fighting more than 420 fires nationwide.

Officials warned that the dangerous conditions could result in shortness of breath and irritated eyes, and can worsen asthma and heart disease in more severe cases.

“I can taste the air,” Dr. Ken Strumpf said in a Facebook post from Syracuse, New York, which was enveloped in an amber pall. The smoke, he later said by phone, even made him a bit dizzy.

US National Weather Service meteorologist Zach Taylor said the current weather pattern in the central and eastern US is essentially funneling in the smoke.

Some rain should help clear the air somewhat in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic this weekend or early next week, though more thorough relief will come from containing or extinguishing the fires, he noted.

Across the border, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul warned the public to “prepare for this over the long haul," New York City Mayor Eric Adams told residents to limit outdoor activities as much as possible.

A view toward Brooklyn, a boat maneuvers the East River near the Manhattan Bridge. Credit: AP

Canada's wildfire season started early this year and accelerated very quickly, exhausting firefighting resources across the country, Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre spokesperson Jennifer Kamau said.

Smoke from the blazes in various parts of the country has been creeping into the US since last month but intensified with a recent spate of fires in Quebec, where more than 100 fires are burning and considered out of control.

The largest town in Northern Quebec, Chibougamau, with a population of about 7,500 - was evacuated on Tuesday.

A cyclist wears a mask due to poor air quality conditions as smoke from wildfires in Canada. Credit: AP

More than 950 firefighters and other personnel have already arrived from the US, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Crews from Costa Rica are scheduled to arrive soon.

Across the border, the effects of the blazes blotted out skylines and irritated throats.

“It’s sunny, but there’s no sun,” Michele Kluk said as she emerged from a Target store in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, with “a bunch” of allergy medication in response to the air quality.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.

Sitting in a Brooklyn park, nanny Meagan Bobb said she was surprised by how bad the air was.

“The little girl was coughing, and I was having problems breathing when I was walking around, so we’re looking to go inside somewhere soon,” Ms Bobb said.

The smoke exacerbated health problems for people such as Vicki Burnett, 67, who has asthma and has had serious bouts with bronchitis.

After taking her dogs out Wednesday morning, Michigan, Burnett said, “I came in and started coughing and hopped back into bed.”