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Friday, June 30, 2023

Smoke from Canada was still lingering over the Albemarle County area Friday morning, making the air quality pretty poor. But, as of 11 a.m., the wind in this area is moving in from that south, which will drive out the smoke and replace it with cleaner air.

Unfortunately, that cleaner air will also be hot and humid, said Travis Koshko, the chief meteorologist at CBS19.

A street view is seen through haze.
Credit: Jessie Higgins/Charlottesville Tomorrow

Meteorologists expect smoke from Canadian wildfires to linger over central Virginia until Friday

This might be a common pattern for us this summer. There are hundreds of wildfires in Canada burning out of control. So far this year, more than 20 million acres of Canadian forest has burned, which is an area of land almost the size of Virginia. And the weather up north is unusually warm and dry, so officials anticipate more fires. Canadian officials have said they are not capable of containing the fires, and have called for help from other nations.

What does that mean for us in central Virginia? Koshko says we’re in for a summer of smoke whenever the wind is blowing from the north, replaced by heat and humidity when it is blowing from the south.

Now, there are some things you can do to mitigate the effect. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality puts out air quality alerts every few hours at this website. You can judge for yourself whether it’s safe for you to exert yourself outside by checking the site. I’ve also found this website that has wind forecasts helpful for predicting when the smoke will return.

If you have to be outside when the air quality is particularly bad, wearing an N95 mask will filter out many of the harmful particles. The New York Times did a brief story explaining the science behind this, if you’re interested.

Students run from a brick building with a sign atop it that reads, "Buford Middle School."
Credit: Mike Kropf/Charlottesville Tomorrow

With new construction underway, Charlottesville School Board quickly renames Buford to Charlottesville Middle School

It’s official! Buford Middle School will be renamed Charlottesville Middle School. The School Board voted unanimously this week to change the school’s name. City Schools is in the process of reviewing the names of all its schools, but decided to expedite the decision on Buford so it would coincide with the school’s long-awaited, $93 million reconstruction that began earlier this month.

Buford won’t take the new name immediately. Officials say they will officially rename the school when the reconstruction is complete, which is projected for the 2025-2026 school year.

A close up of a sparkler, sparks flying
Credit: Photo courtesy of Pixabay

It is illegal to set off any kind of firework in Charlottesville (yes, even a sparkler)

Lastly, here’s something I didn’t know until this week, and maybe you didn’t know either: It’s illegal to set off fireworks in Charlottesville. And that means all fireworks. Specifically: “firecracker, sparkler, roman candle, fire balloon, signal light, squib, rocket, railroad track or other torpedo, skyrocket, flashlight composition, or other substance or object, of whatever form or construction, that contains any explosive or inflammable compound or substance, and which explodes, rises into the air, travels laterally, or fires projectiles into the air to obtain visible or audible pyrotechnic effects,” per the city ordinance.

You need to apply for a permit from the fire chief to do so — and unless you’re a demolition expert, you probably won’t get one.

To be eligible, an applicant needs a sponsor, a Virginia Pyrotechnician Certification Number and a federal explosives permit issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

We had several questions about this law after the city issued a press release on Wednesday, including how many folks are charged for violating this law each year and what the consequences are. Our democracy reporter called around to the police department, fire department and city manager’s office yesterday trying to get answers, but no one was available to talk with her.

She’s still trying to track that information down today. If she gets it, we’ll update the story on our website.

One final note, we will not be publishing new reports next week. Our reporters are taking the week to rest and work on longer term projects. Next week, you’ll get emails from our editor-in-chief about Charlottesville Inclusive Media, with stories written and told by our neighbors, and we hope you’ll spend some time with them.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend and a happy Independence Day.

Goodbye for now,

Jessie Higgins, managing editor

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I'm Charlottesville Tomorrow's managing editor and health and safety reporter. If there’s something you think we should be investigating, please email me at jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org! And you can follow all the work we do by subscribing to our free newsletter! Hablo español, y quiero mantener a la comunidad hispanohablante informada. Si tienes preguntas o información que debo saber, por favor, envíame un correo electrónico a jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org.