Canadian wildfire smoke casts haze over northern and eastern Utah

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality recommends Utahns with chronic health conditions pay attention to their bodies and “avoid outdoor exertion if you’re in an area with visible smoke or haze.”

(Government of Alberta Fire Service/Canadian Press via AP) The Bald Mountain Wildfire burns in the Grande Prairie Forest Area in Alberta on Friday, May 12, 2023. Smoke from Canadian wildfires has blown into parts of northern and eastern Utah, the state air quality agency said on Friday, May 19, 2023.

The whispy, white haze interrupting an otherwise sunny spring day in Salt Lake City and other parts of Utah is the result of wildfire smoke blowing in from Canada’s already above-average wildfire year, state air quality officials said Friday.

“We are starting to see smoke from a wildfire in Canada on our monitors in northern & eastern Utah,” the state Department of Environmental Quality wrote on Twitter Friday afternoon. “We expect that it will continue to move southeast, and hopefully move out by Sunday with forecasted wind.”

The agency encouraged Utahns with chronic heart or lung conditions to pay attention to their bodies.

“Avoid outdoor exertion if you’re in an area with visible smoke or haze,” the agency recommends.

So far this year, there’s been 1,402 wildfires in Canada, about 340 more wildfires than average, according to Natural Resources Canada’s National Wildland Fire Situation Report from May 17. While the number of Canadian wildfires is 132% of normal this year, the total area of hectares burned is 1,605% of normal.

There are 58 “uncontrolled” fires burning in the county, with 40 “being held” and 93 that were “controlled,” the Canadian agency also reported, and another 15 fires had a “modified response.”

In Utah, there is one active wildfire, named the “Timber Top” fire, which is burning in Washington County north of St. George, according to the state wildfire tracking information on Friday afternoon. The agency was also reporting an incident named “False Alarm Desolation Canyon” in eastern Utah and several controlled burns across the state.