Local residents feeling effects of Canada wildfire smoke

With Canada wildfire smoke blanketing multiple Northeast states, residents of area towns are feeling the effects of the poor air quality the smoke has created. The air quality in Wallingford, Southington and Cheshire was categorized as “very unhealthy” on Wednesday by AirNow, a national air quality tracking index. Similarly, air quality in Meriden was considered to be “unhealthy.”

Local health departments were working closely with municipal officials and schools to ensure residents can protect themselves from the smoke.

What to do?

Hartford HealthCare shared with the Record-Journal an article highlighting different ways wildfire smoke symptoms manifest and advice from Dr. Steven Prunk, director of pulmonary medicine at the Hospital of Central Connecticut and MidState Medical Center in Meriden.

Prunk explained that symptoms caused by the smoke might present like seasonal allergies, affecting a person’s eyes, nose and throat. He added that some individuals with underlying conditions, such as asthma, are more likely to experience serious symptoms.

The best way to avoid the smoke is staying indoors and keeping windows and doors closed, Prunk said. The article also highlighted that running air conditioners throughout the day can help stabilize and control the indoor climate.

Stephanie Denya, Meriden’s associate health director, said malls, soup kitchens and shelters are good spots to escape the smoke if individuals don’t have an air conditioning unit.

If there is a need to be outside, a person should avoid strenuous activities, like running, Denya said. She explained that physically exhausting actions rely on deeper breaths to keep up, so attempting to exercise when the air quality index is poor can further irritate a person’s lungs.

For example, Denya said her daughter with asthma is an avid runner and struggled to breathe when she went out for her daily run.

“[My daughter] was like… ‘I went yesterday like a fool and I needed to use my inhaler consistently,’ ” Denya said.


Mike Grove, assistant superintendent for finance and operations of Meriden Public Schools, said that the public schools have contacted Meriden Health and Human Services to stay updated on the situation and any new recommendations they may have. He explained that some schools hosted outdoor events but the events were modified to have less cardio-intensive activities.

For example, he noted that Lincoln Middle School Field Day started outside with “backyard games,” but then was moved inside later in the afternoon.

Grove added that school nurses and teachers were crucial to ensuring that the students weren’t experiencing symptoms.

Cheshire School Superintendent Jeff Solan said he has never dealt with weather issues like this in over 18 years as an educator.

He said he followed similar notification procedures used during snowstorms, informing parents of the air quality index and the schools’ actions to minimize exposure before the school day began. Teachers were instructed to keep their windows closed and all outdoor activities were moved inside.

“When I read where things stand in an area where air conditions were considered to be unsafe, we decided to bring all of our kids inside today as much as possible, which is tough this time of year when kids are looking forward to doing fun things outside,” he said.

Solan said that the district is also in communication with the Chesprocott Health Department and is regularly updated on the conditions. He explained that air quality is set to start improving late Thursday morning, but plans to continue monitoring the situation.

“When the air quality is what it is right now, it’s a good night for a board game,” Solan said.


Castle Craig in Meriden is seen here through the haze on Wednesday. Poor air quality from Canada wildfires continued Wednesday. Dave Zajac, Record-Journal

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