Philadelphia air quality: Streets empty as residents heed Code Red Alert

Multiple wildfires burning across Canada are sending smoke into the northeastern United States, making it hard to see and breathe. Philadelphia issued a Code Red for air quality, while the rest of the region is under a Code Orange, as health departments urge people to stay indoors and keep windows closed.

Looking to Philadelphia’s skyline from just north of the city Wednesday night, Pennsylvania’s founder, William Penn, atop City Hall, was barely visible in the haze. From the very break of dawn, a curtain of muted brown shrouded the city, prompting health officials to issue the urgent warning.

"The air around us has thousands of tiny particles in it. We don’t want them inside our lungs. Once in the tiny passageways, they’re very difficult to get out," Philadelphia Health Commissioner, Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, explained.

The city Health Department posted a Code Red Alert, warning the air is unhealthy to breathe and urged residents to stay inside, if they can and wear masks if they can’t. The young, the old, those with respiratory illnesses and even the pregnant were cautioned.


"If they go out on a day like today and breath in this air, it could really trigger problematic episodes for them and put them in danger," Dr. Bettigole said.

Smoke from wildfires scorching forests in Canada is plaguing the eastern United States with New York City and Philly in the bullseye.

The famous Art Museum steps, where tourists imitate the boxer, Rocky’s, famous run, was largely empty, while at City Hall, few pulled on their roller skates.

City and regional schools urged students and staff to remain inside and urged field trips be postponed. Doctor Ala Stanford runs the Center for Health Equity in North Philly.

"If you smoke, try to stop, or reduce the frequency or the amount you typically smoke. Recognize it may be harder for you to catch your breath right now," Dr. Stanford stated.

The Code Red Alert seemed to take hold as runners and bikers along the popular Kelly Drive route were scarce and masks seemed a safe bet.

"I think this is a good precaution. I don’t know what’s kicked up in the air from the fires. I don’t want health consequences later in life," West Philly resident Josh Zenker said.