Canadian wildfire smoke, haze blankets DC region Wednesday; Code Red Air Quality Alert in effect

Smoke from Canadian wildfires triggered Air Quality Alerts across the Washington D.C., Baltimore and Virginia regions Wednesday.

The smoke blanketed the Mid-Atlantic area in a haze, turning the air acrid, the sky yellowish gray, and prompted warnings for vulnerable populations to stay inside.

The Maryland Department of the Environment issued a Code RED Air Quality Alert for most of the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore City metro regions.

A Code RED Air Quality Alert means that air pollution concentrations within the region are unhealthful for the general population. The effects of air pollution can be minimized by avoiding strenuous activity or exercising outdoors.

Due to air quality concerns, D.C. Public Schools, Charles County Public Schools, and Montgomery County Public Schools have canceled all outdoor activities Wednesday.

Fairfax County Public Schools has canceled outdoor activities until 6 p.m.

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Red, Orange Air Quality Alerts 

Air quality alerts are triggered by a number of factors, including the detection of fine-particle pollution — known as "PM 2.5" — which can irritate the lungs.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said hazy skies, reduced visibility and the odor of burning wood will probably linger for a few days. FOX 5’s Tucker Barnes says the situation if likely to continue for the next 24 to 48 hours across the D.C. region. Highs in the D.C. area Wednesday will be near 82 degrees with cooler temperatures in the low-60s in the evening.

On Tuesday, more than 150 forest fires were burning across Northern Quebec. Canadian authorities issued an evacuation order for Chibougamau, Quebec, a town of about 7,500 in the remote region of the province.


Canada wildfires lead to air-quality alerts in US – Here's how to stay safe

The tiny particles are small enough to get past airway defenses and cause breathing problems. Here's a closer look at what's happening and some precautions for dealing with the haze.

Here’s what you can do to stay safe:

It's a good time to put off that yard work and outdoor exercise. If you go out, consider wearing an N95 mask to reduce your exposure to pollutants.

Stay inside, keeping your doors, windows and fireplaces shut. It's recommended that you run the air conditioning on a recirculation setting.

The Associated Press contributed to this report