Canadian wildfires prompt ‘Unhealthy’ air quality advisory for Sarasota County residents for Oct. 3-4

Conditions back to ‘Good’ by Oct. 5

This is a portion of a map of the United States shown on Oct. 3, reflecting poor air quality in Florida — as noted with the orange-red shading — as a result of the Canadian wildfires. Image from

Facebook chatter this week indicated lots of incredulity over the fact that wildfires in Canada could affect Sarasota County’s air quality. Yet, those fires thousands of miles away were the source not only of haze but also of poor air quality, which prompted an advisory from Sarasota County Government.

Late on Tuesday, Oct. 3, county staff warned of “current elevated Particulate Matter (PM2.5) levels that fall within the ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ category, per Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) national ambient air quality standards for public health.”

The advisory explained, “PM2.5 are inhalable particles that are small enough to enter the bloodstream. The elevated levels were detected today, Oct. 3, 2023, at both the Bee Ridge and Jackson Road air monitoring stations.”

The Bee Ridge station is in Sarasota, while the Jackson Road station is in Venice.

“Emissions from ongoing Canadian wildfires paired with predominate wind from the northeast are impacting air quality along the east coast of the United States,” the advisory pointed out, noting that wind conditions were forecast “to continue to bring these emissions into Sarasota County,” corresponding to a higher air quality index than the typical “Good” range.

The website showed that on Oct. 3, the air quality index (AQI) for Sarasota was 143, which is in the range that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies as unsafe for sensitive groups. That range is 101 to 150. The Health Message for that level of AQI is “Sensitive groups should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.”

This chart explains the air quality index (AQI) health messages. Image from the EPA
This was the air quality index data for Sarasota County on Oct. 3. Image from
This is the guide to how to read the air quality index figures above. Image from

The Oct. 3 county alert said, “People with respiratory ailments may experience health effects during this air advisory and may want to consider limiting their outdoor activities. The general public is not likely to be affected. Any person with health-related questions should contact their personal health care provider.”

The advisory was in effect until dusk on Oct. 4.

At 10:15 a.m. on Oct. 5, the air quality index for Sarasota was 34, which the EPA notes is in the “Good” range, which goes up to 50.

A South Florida Sun Sentinel article by Angie DiMichele, published at 4:09 p.m. on Oct. 3, made it clear that the air quality issue affected areas south of Sarasota County, as well.

“Smoke from Canadian wildfires hung over areas from downtown West Palm Beach to downtown Miami on Tuesday,” DiMichele wrote.

“Nearly the entire state of Florida experienced poorer air quality conditions Tuesday, with some areas ranging on the U.S. Air Quality Index from moderate to unhealthy for sensitive groups and unhealthy,” according to, she added.

Moreover, she wrote, “Florida was the only state” along the southeastern U.S. and Gulf coasts to have areas in the red, unhealthy range, as shown on an interactive map.