New York City easily set a record Wednesday for the worst air quality ever recorded there — as hundreds of US firefighters rushed north to Canada to tackle the still-raging wildfires that caused it.
At its peak in the afternoon, the air quality index (AQI) for the city reached 405 out of 500 — the highest since records began, according to an analysis of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data by FOX Weather.
The previous record was 279 in July 1981 — a whopping 126 points less.
Anything above 100 is considered unhealthy, while above 300 is “hazardous,” the index’s worst possible rating.
In a twisted irony, the record-smashing dire conditions came from Canada on what was supposed to be its national Clean Air Day — with this year’s tagline: “Clean Air Everywhere.”
Instead, the Great White Way sent huge swathes of smoke across large chunks of the US — even as far south as Alabama, according to NASA.
Across New York, landmarks were completely shrouded by smoke as the skies glowed an eery bright orange.
“No. This is not Mars,” the National Weather Service tweeted of such orange skies over Binghamton, New York.
Similar records were also smashed in neighboring states, with Hillsborough in New Jersey’s Somerset County reporting an air quality index of 486 — almost as high as it can get.
The previous high for the Garden State was 286 — a full 200 points less — on July 21, 1980, according to NJ.com.
The smoke is expected to linger for the rest of the workweek, including Thursday — as US firefighters were set to finally help those north of the border tackle the wildfires.
“Hundreds of American firefighters have recently arrived in Canada, and more are on the way,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted.
He said he called President Biden to thank him for the “critical support” and “all the help Americans are providing as we continue to fight these devastating wildfires.”
Firefighters in Canada’s Quebec province are struggling to put out 140 fires, most of them listed as out of control. More than 11,000 people had to evacuate their homes in Quebec.
Trudeau called it “the worst wildfire season we’ve ever had right across the country.”
About 9.4 million acres have already burned, roughly 15 times the 10-year average, according to federal Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair. Warm, dry conditions were expected to persist in the months ahead.
Although wildfires are common in Canada, it is unusual for them to be burning simultaneously in the east and west, forcing the Canadian government to send in the military to help with overstretched resources.
Even though the smoke has been around for weeks, weather patterns kept most of the particles at higher altitudes, Fox Weather explained.
But a recent northerly wind and higher pressures trapped the smoke and pollutants closer to the surface, leading to the scary conditions.
With Post wires