Detroit Today: How Canadian wildfires are creating air pollution in Michigan 

As Canada experiences dry and hot conditions this summer, smoke from wildfires is blowing over the borders, impacting air quality.

The EPA allowed Michigan to disregard two days of data showing elevated ozone at one Detroit location, which the agency blamed on Canadian wildfires.

Meteorologists with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy recently issued air quality alerts. This is due to hundreds of wildfires that erupted across Canada, as well as one in Michigan.

Many people, particularly Southwest Detroit, already suffer from intense pollution and subsequently struggle with asthma. Now, Michigan is at a “very high” or “extreme” risk of fire due to intense heat and low precipitation.

Listen: A cauldron of wildfires, air pollution, and poor environmental conditions in Michigan.


Stephanie Hengesbach is a meteorologist in the air quality division at Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE). She says people should protect their health and limit outdoor exposure.

“When (air pollution) levels reach this range,” Hengesbach, “(that’s) really when people who are sensitive to increased air quality start seeing the effects.”

Dr. Chris Stockdale is a Wildland Fire Research and Extension Scientist at Natural Resources Canada. She stresses the danger one fire can have on the environment and surrounding populations.

“A single fire can lead to many, many more,” says Stockdale, “because they are generating their own wind patterns, spitting out embers hundreds of meters to kilometers in advance of themselves.”

Gabriela Santiago-Romero is a city councilwoman presiding over Detroit’s District 6. She says many of her constituents have dealt with significant air pollution for decades, and that recent smoke plumes will only worsen conditions for many of her constituents. 

“This is a daily lived experience for generations of people in District 6 and in Southwest Detroit,” says Santiago-Romero.

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