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News release

June 13, 2023


David Brown, 651-757-2227,

Air quality alert issued through Thursday, June 15, for northern Minnesota and for Wednesday, June 14, for southeast Minnesota

Map showing active air quality alert for northern Minnesota through 6 a.m. on Thursday, June 15, and for southeast Minnesota for Wednesday, June 14 from noon to 8 p.m. Air quality is expected to reach the orange AQI category, a level which is unhealthy for everyone.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has issued an air quality alert for northern Minnesota due to wildfire smoke, effective from 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 13, until 6 a.m. on Thursday, June 15. The affected area includes Roseau, International Falls, Ely, Hibbing, Duluth, Two Harbors, Brainerd, Alexandria, Moorhead, Ortonville, and the tribal nations of Grand Portage, Fond du Lac, Leech Lake, Red Lake, and Mille Lacs. 

The alert is also in effect due to ozone for southeast Minnesota, effective Wednesday, June 14, from noon to 8 p.m. The affected area includes the Twin Cities, Rochester, and the tribal nation of Prairie Island.

Air quality levels are expected to be in the orange air quality index (AQI) category, a level that is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, for northern and southeast Minnesota. In the orange area, sensitive groups should avoid prolonged time outdoors.
Smoke from Canadian wildfires will move into northern Minnesota beginning Tuesday evening and will reach Brainerd and Alexandria by early Wednesday morning. The smoke will slowly move south during the day Wednesday and may approach St. Cloud in the evening. In addition, light smoke may move into southeast Minnesota on Wednesday evening. Winds will shift and push this smoke towards the west. Smoke will linger across much of the state throughout the day on Thursday, but concentrations should decrease below the orange category Thursday morning. In addition, sunny skies, warm temperatures, low humidity, and light winds will produce an environment for volatile organic compounds (VOC) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) to react in the air to produce elevated levels of ozone in the afternoon. Ozone will be elevated across the Twin Cities and Rochester during the afternoon hours, but will decrease in the evening.

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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