ALBANY – Hundreds of wildfires in Canada have blanketed the Northeast with smoke and haze throughout the week. The state’s normal air quality index [AQI] usually hovers around 50. Earlier in the week, Schenectady County’s AQI went up to about 200 and parts of the state saw an AQI of 400. The smoke began to dissipate Thursday for some parts of the state and is on track to continue to improve.
As of Friday afternoon, the Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow website showed Schenectady County’s AQI at 40. Schenectady City Schools resumed outdoor activities and the 54th annual Flag Day parade in Saratoga Springs is expected to continue on Saturday. The 518 Future Game Classic at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium in Troy was postponed from Thursday and will take place on Sunday.
“The current AQI and weekend forecast indicate that Saratogians can enjoy outdoor activities this weekend,” Saratoga Springs Mayor Ron Kim said in a statement. “Nevertheless, particularly if you have a sensitive health condition, please make sure you periodically consult AirNow for the latest local air quality measures.”
Many parts of the state continue to be unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as those with asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
“For more than a week, we have been sounding the alarm that air quality issues are serious and pose a threat to the health and well-being of New Yorkers,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement. “Now, as conditions gradually improve and it becomes safer to be outdoors in many regions of the state, it’s critical that New Yorkers continue to stay informed and take common-sense safety precautions to protect themselves and their families.”
Her office reports there were 147 asthma-related emergency room visits in hospitals outside New York City on Wednesday, an increase from an average of 80 in a five-day period. The state is once again distributing about one million free N95-style face masks that were already stockpiled from the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Hochul’s office, current air flows are expected to send the heaviest smoke to the southern and western parts of the state. Saturday’s forecast shows winds turning to a more north-northwesterly direction, with more smoke potentially entering the state late Saturday.
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, also urged caution during the weekend and beyond.
Additionally, the state has announced it will issue full refunds for those who made reservations with a state Department of Conservation or Office of State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation campground while unhealthy air conditions continue.
Visitors who wish to cancel on the day of arrival should call their campground directly. Visitors who wish to cancel prior to their day of arrival should call the ReserveAmerica Customer Service at 1-800-777-9644. State campgrounds remain open and all reservations will be honored for those who chose to camp this weekend.