ITHACA, N.Y.—Over the summer, massive wildfires in Canada caused several days of poor air quality locally due to smoke migrating into the region. Now, a wildfire in Virginia is causing haze and smoke to migrate north.

A 5,000-acre blaze at Matts Creek has been burning since Nov. 12, spreading quickly in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest in Virginia, somewhat close to the border with West Virginia. Part of the Appalachian Trail has been closed due to the fires, which have also caused a state of emergency in Virginia.

The cause of the fire is unknown at this time.

As of 1 p.m. Friday afternoon, the air was considered “unhealthy for sensitive groups” in Ithaca, according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. Large swaths of New York and Pennsylvania are experiencing similar air quality issues, but conditions are worse closer to the fire in Maryland and Virginia.

Tompkins County Whole Health has been posting updates on the current situation, advising “people with lung or heart disease, older adults, children and teens should choose less strenuous activities” while the air quality is at its current level.

Winds have blown the smoke to Ithaca, according to the National Weather Service, causing air quality issues reminiscent of early June, though the current smoke levels are not nearly as bad as they were at that time. At its worst, the local air was considered “hazardous,” with ominous pink and orange hues consuming the area and local officials urging people to stay indoors.

The Ithaca City School District has also announced that it is “closely monitoring air quality conditions” and that students with asthma or heart issues should consider using alternative transportation if they use a bike or walk to school.

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Matt Butler is the Editor in Chief of The Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at