Air quality sensors show how bad wildfire smoke is in Orlando. Here’s where to check

Smoke blows into Florida from wildfires up north

Smoke seen in the skies over Orlando (Tony Talcott, Copyright 2023 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – With smoke blowing into Central Florida from the brush fires in northern Canada, air quality has been a concern for many residents.

However, researchers with the University of Central Florida have set up a website to show what the air quality is like in Orlando and the surrounding area.

The website relies on sensors installed in nearby neighborhoods to track local air quality, with higher scores indicating worse quality.

“It measures fine and coarse particulate matter,” said Dr. Kelly Stevens with the UCF School of Public Administration. “Particulate matter can affect the air quality, such as smoke, which we received from the Canadian wildfires. And this can impact health.”

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Stevens explained that these particulates can act as pollutants, impacting how well you breathe and feel. The particulates can also trigger health conditions like asthma or worsen existing conditions like heart disease, Stevens said.

According to Stevens, the recent dips in air quality are rare in Central Florida, typically happening only a few times a year.

“This is not common. This is something we usually see here in Central Florida related to extreme events, such as Canadian wildfires or wildfires nearby,” she said. “Sometimes you might see it in the summer on a very hot day where there’s a lot of sunshine and high heat and winds are very calm, which means it’s not going to mix the air up very much, and so the air can get a little stagnant.”

Stevens said that people at risk near Orlando can use the website to check the air quality near them.

“For example, one of my kids goes to elementary school out here in Oviedo, and they kept them inside during their recreation time this afternoon because of the air quality,” Stevens said. “So it’s important for schools or other groups to know what the air quality is so that they can plan around it.”

Members of sensitive groups may experience health effects. The general public is less likely to be affected.

People with heart or lung disease, older adults, children and teens can take any of the following steps to reduce exposure:

  • Avoid strenuous outdoor activities
  • Keep outdoor activities short
  • Consider moving physical activities indoors or rescheduling them

Smoke is set to start dissipating throughout Wednesday, though haze could linger across northern Florida through the week.

To access UCF’s air quality map, click here.

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About the Authors:

Anthony, a graduate of the University of Florida, joined in April 2022.

Phil Landeros joined WKMG-TV as an executive producer in March 2021.