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News release

September 4, 2023


David Brown, 612-251-5703,

Air quality alert issued due to wildfire smoke for Tuesday, Sept. 5, through Wednesday, Sept. 6 for northwest Minn.

Map showing active air quality alert in the orange category for northwestern Minnesota through 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 6.

Air quality in northwest Minnesota is expected to reach the orange AQI category, which is unhealthy for sensitive groups.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has issued an air quality alert for northwest Minnesota. The alert takes effect at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 5 and runs until 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 6. The affected area includes Alexandria, Ortonville, Bemidji, East Grand Forks, Moorhead, Roseau, and the tribal nations of Leech Lake and Red Lake.

A strong low pressure system will move across central Minnesota on Tuesday. Strong northerly winds behind the system will pull Canadian wildfire smoke into Minnesota. The smoke will reach the state by 6 a.m. Tuesday and will impact northwest Minnesota through the end of the day. The frontal boundary over the state will keep smoke limited to this area for much of the day. As the system moves east, smoke is expected to reach southwest Minnesota around 4 p.m. Tuesday. Winds will become westerly, and smoke may progress eastward across southern Minnesota overnight. Smoke may also move into northeast Minnesota Tuesday evening as well. The alert will be expanded as needed on Tuesday. Northwest winds will continue on Wednesday and smoke will begin to clear the state. Air quality will first improve over northern Minnesota Wednesday morning. Air quality will improve Wednesday afternoon across southern Minnesota.

Fine particle levels are expected to reach the orange air quality index (AQI) category, a level considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, across northwest Minnesota. This area includes Alexandria, Ortonville, Bemidji, East Grand Forks, Moorhead, Roseau, and the tribal nations of Leech Lake and Red Lake. In the orange area, sensitive groups should limit prolonged or heavy exertion and time spent outdoors.

Air alert wood smoke-orange

What this alert means

Air moves long distances and carries pollutants. During air quality alerts due to wildfires, the air is mixed with harmful smoke. Wildfire smoke spreads or lingers depending on the size of the fires, the wind, and the weather.

The air quality index (AQI) is color-coded. Air quality alerts are issued when the AQI is forecast to reach an unhealthy level, which includes forecasts in the orange, red, purple, and maroon categories. For a full description of each air quality category, visit

Orange air quality: Unhealthy for sensitive groups

Sights and smells: In areas where air quality is in the orange AQI category due to wildfires, the sky may look hazy and residents may smell smoke even when wildfires are far away.

Health effects: This air is unhealthy for sensitive groups and pollution may aggravate heart and lung disease as well as cardiovascular and respiratory conditions. Symptoms may include chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and fatigue.

What to do: People in sensitive groups are encouraged to reduce outdoor physical activities, take more breaks, or do less intense activities to reduce their exposure. People with asthma should follow their asthma action plan and keep their rescue inhaler nearby.

Who’s most at risk

Poor air quality impacts health. Fine particle pollution from wildfire smoke can irritate eyes, nose, and throat, and cause coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, dizziness, or fatigue. Smoke particles are small enough that they can be breathed deeply into lungs and enter the bloodstream. This can lead to illnesses such as bronchitis or aggravate existing chronic heart and lung diseases, triggering heart palpitations, asthma attacks, heart attacks, and strokes.

Certain groups experience health effects from unhealthy air quality sooner than others, either because they are more sensitive to fine particle pollution or because they are exposed to larger amounts of it.

Sensitive groups include:

  • People who have asthma or other breathing conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • People who have heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes.
  • Pregnant people.
  • Children and older adults.

People with increased exposure include:

  • People of all ages who do longer or more vigorous physical activity outdoors.
    • People who work outdoors, especially workers who do heavy manual labor.
    • People who exercise or play sports outdoors, including children.
  • People who don’t have air conditioning and need to keep windows open to stay cool.
  • People in housing not tight enough to keep unhealthy air out, or who do not have permanent shelter.

Anyone experiencing health effects related to poor air quality should contact their health care provider. Those with severe symptoms, chest pain, trouble breathing, or who fear they may be experiencing a heart attack or stroke should call 911 immediately.

Take precautions

Reduce or eliminate activities that contribute to air pollution, such as outdoor burning, and use of residential wood burning devices. Reduce vehicle trips and vehicle idling as much as possible.

Stay informed

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