Areas of Hamilton hit ‘high-risk’ air quality readings due to wildfire smoke

A photo looking over Hamilton's north end during a high-risk air quality health index on June 28, 2023. Global News

Agencies monitoring Hamilton’s Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) reported readings in the high-risk range on Wednesday afternoon, as predicted in several forecasts.

As of 4 p.m. Environment Canada put the index at 9 which is in the upper tier of bad air quality readings, while the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks in Ontario put the risk level between  7 and 10 on a similar scale.

Clean Air Hamilton’s Bruce Newbold said the reduced visibility was because of the extra particulate matter in the air thanks to wildfire smoke from northern Ontario and Quebec.

“The AQHI for Hamilton is already ‘high’, and could move higher. As part of the AQHI, particulate levels are high as well,” Newbold said.

A snapshot of the Air Quality Health Index on Hamilton Mountain from Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks as of 4 p.m June 28, 2023. Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks Ontario

Conditions sparked numerous alerts from municipalities recommending a reduction in strenuous activity for residents sensitive to poor air quality.

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In Hamilton, residents on the Mountain saw the worst of it with the AQHI moving beyond 10 on the scale between Noon and 2 p.m. indicating a ‘very high health risk.’

The lower city peaked at 7 (high risk) around 2 p.m. and Hamilton West hit ‘very high risk’ around 1 p.m.

Observational data from the airport put visibility at just three kilometers as of the late afternoon, a typical sunny day would normally be about 24 kilometres.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Ontario was reporting 66 active fires in northern sections of the province with Quebec revealing 76 of its own blazes.

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Some 400 wildfires were burning across Canada with 239 considered out of control.

The news sent some 30 groups of activists out to MP offices across Canada on Wednesday to spark stronger federal action in response to the unprecedented wildfire situation.

About two dozen Hamilton members held a ‘Canada is Burning’ rally in front of Liberal Cabinet Minister Filomena Tassi’s office on the city’s westside.

Spokesperson Don McLean said the call to action comes as Canada has officially marked the worst wildfire season on record.

“This is June, the fires really didn’t start till April. In three months, we’ve burned more than the annual amount, ” said McLean. “It emphasizes the extent of the climate crisis and how seriously this is now affecting us.”


Scenes from one of several ‘Canada is Burning’ rally’s at MP offices across Canada. About a two-dozen are shown in front of Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas’ Filomena Tassi’s office in Hamilton’s west side. Global News

The group is urging the federal government to end fossil fuel subsidies and move toward a just transition to 100 per cent renewable energy.

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Global News meteorologist Anthony Farnell said Wednesday would have been a bright sunny day without the smoke.

Conditions are expected to “slowly improve” into Thursday and through the long weekend.

“A strong north wind directed smoke from the fires right into southern Ontario,” Farnell said. “I do expect late today to see more in the way of sunshine as some of that upper-level smoke start to dissipate.”

Canada’s weather agency says Hamilton, Ont, and much of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) will see sun on Thursday with weekend showers expected across southern Ontario.

Environment Canada anticipates a high of 25 C.

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The UV index is also expected to be high.

Friday and Saturday will see similar highs and mainly showers.

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