ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Gov. Kathy Hochul gave an update Wednesday on the air quality across New York State. Far and wide, visibility is low, and haze and a smoky smell is pervading the Empire State due to Canadian wildfires.
The governor called the current decrease in air quality a “health and environmental crisis.” According to the Air Quality Index developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an index of 0 to 50 is considered Good, and an index between 301 and 500 is Hazardous. Hochul said parts of the state have seen a level of over 400 in the last 24 hours. Brooklyn and Queens had the highest index in the state as of early Wednesday evening.
An index at this level can cause health concerns, including irritation to the eyes and nose, coughing, and shortness of breath. The governor urged everyone to stay indoors, calling the outdoors dangerous for everyone, not just vulnerable groups.
“Please don’t go out if you don’t have to,” she said. “I feel like I say this during snow storms as well, but this is about your health and your family’s health. So please stay indoors and use the masks.”
To help with the crisis, Hochul said the state is making 1 million N95 masks available at state facilities. State parks, MTA stations, the Javits Center, Port Authority, and bus terminals will be receiving 400,000 masks. State Homeland Security stockpiles will be receiving 600,000 masks for local governments. The governor said a zoom meeting would be held with the New York State Association of Counties and Conference of Mayors to let them know what resources will be made available.
Hochul also announced that she spoke with Canadian Counsul General Tom Clark and offered the country help from New York state. Hochul said the counsul general told her the current number of fires across Canada is unprecedented. He said in an average 10-year period, wildfires are up 14,000%. As of Wednesday afternoon, Canada has over 285 active wildfires, and 175 are out of control, according to Clark. Hochul said she offered for New York fire rangers to be deployed to Canada if the country requested additional help.
While the current situation is temporary, Hochul warned New Yorkers to be prepared for the possibility of additional fires from Canada as well as an increased risk for fires in New York as the state is currently very dry. She urged residents to be careful of barbeques and open fires in an effort to not contribute to wildfires in the state.
Hochul spoke from the New York State Mesonet in Albany, which has an intricate network of 126 weather monitoring stations. State meteorologists believe the smoky skies should abate over the weekend, but there is no guarantee that the danger won’t return.
You can watch the governor’s full press conference in the video player above.