RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – The air quality in the Richmond region is considered “unhealthy” by Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), conditions that the agency warns could impact “everyone” but especially those in high-risk groups.

Smoke from wildfires in Canada has blanketed areas in the U.S. and abroad, prompting air pollution warnings and impacting the air quality in several states.

DEQ’s air quality forecast shows the Richmond region under the code red alert Thursday, indicating that the air is unhealthy in the area and alerting older adults, children and those with heart or lung disease to avoid any “prolonged or heavy exertion.”

Virginia’s Thursday Air Quality and Forecast (courtesy of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality)

The region’s estimated air quality index, or AQI, is currently at 151, according to Virginia DEQ. Higher AQI values indicate greater levels of air pollution and health concerns in a particular area.

Northern Virginia’s AQI is estimated to be 249 for Thursday, a value that DEQ classifies as “very unhealthy” air quality. The Hampton Roads region has an AQI of 151, the same as Richmond’s, DEQ’s map shows.

With the air quality hitting unhealthy levels in the area, local officials say they are monitoring the situation closely. Here’s a look at how some are responding:


According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow air quality map, Chesterfield’s AQI is 159 as of 1 p.m.

Chesterfield has not canceled any of its sponsored events, county spokeswoman Teresa Bonifas said Wednesday.

The county’s school district shared a message with schools “strongly” urging staff and students to stay inside and saying that the county remains in a “holding pattern for the resuming of state tournament play” at Cosby and Midlothian high schools. Here’s the message:

The school division has shared the following with schools: “As many of you are aware, wildfires in Canada are contributing to poor air quality along the east coast (to include Chesterfield County). We have been closely monitoring this situation, along with Risk Management, and today our advisory level has risen from a Code Orange to a Code Red. Considering this, the county strongly urges our employees and students to work indoors and minimize outdoor activities until the air quality improves. Face masks may also be worn to aid in reducing risks. If your school is a host to any student-based camps today, please advise those serving in a supervisory capacity to move activities indoors (this will likely impact tomorrow’s activities as well). High schools, please continue with indoor conditioning for student athletes. Cosby/Midlo, we remain in a holding pattern for the resuming of state tournament play.”

Chesterfield County Public Schools


According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow air quality map, Henrico’s AQI is 159 as of 1 p.m.

Henrico County has not canceled any events due to the air quality but the county’s school division is monitoring health and weather advisories.

“At this time, events are going on as planned. If adjustments are needed to activities or school operations, HCPS will communicate with families and staff using our rapid notification email, text and phone call system,” Eileen Cox, Henrico schools spokeswoman, wrote in a Thursday email.


According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow air quality map, Hanover’s AQI is 159 as of 1 p.m.

There are no Hanover County closures due to the smoke from the wildfires, according to a county spokesperson. Athletic fields and facilities in the county will remain open, but it’s up to the organizations using them to decide if they want to move forward with events.

Hanover school principals have either moved or limited recess and other outdoor events to be done inside. Some have been postponed until next week, according to district spokesman Chris Whitley.

“The impact on our special end of year events has thankfully been minimal to-date. Starting yesterday and in response to the current conditions, our principals have moved/limited recess and other outdoor events indoors or postponed them until next week. These are certainly not decisions that are made lightly as we recognize their significance to our students, staff, and families,” Whitley wrote in a Thursday email. “However, the safety of our students, staff, and families is always our top priority when evaluating and making these difficult decisions. We will continue to monitor these conditions and their impact on our outdoor activities until the risk is no longer an issue.”  


According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow air quality map, Petersburg’s AQI is 159 as of 1 p.m.

A spokeswoman for the city of Petersburg wrote in a Thursday email that there is “No notice of any city events being canceled at this time.” Petersburg schools haven’t canceled any outdoor events or activities but moved them inside, a spokesman told 8News in an email.

Stay with 8News for updates.