BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — Smoke and pollutants from the wildfires in Canada have caused a significant drop in air quality, affecting millions of Americans.

Mark Hudnall, a Service Forester with the West Virginia Division of Forestry has fought wildfires across the U.S. for more than ten years. He said one thing causing trouble with these particular fires is a flammable layer of dead vegetation on the forest floor called Peat.

“Peat bogs are – it’s peat which is much deeper, it can be up to like 8 feet deep – it’s decomposing vegetative material that is not quite dirt yet,” said Hudnall. “So a lot of times what they’ll have to do is bring in heavy machinery and dig out those areas and put a lot of water in.”

Hudnall says when it comes to fighting forest fires, most firefighters have one of two jobs.

The first is called mop up. Mop up is the process of making sure areas that have already burned don’t have any surviving vegetation that could catch fire and cause the area to burn again.

The second job is line construction.

“It’s building the actual fire line,” Hudnall explained. Clearing debris, using hand tools and chainsaws to either improve or build a new line to contain the fire.”

Other, more specialized jobs, include using heavy machinery like excavators or bulldozers to help prevent the fire from spreading.

Hudnall says because Canada has different requirements for firefighters, most Americans who fight wildfires are not currently helping the fight. However, Hudnall says if Canada were to lower some of those restrictions, more Americans may be able to help.

What is being referred to as “the haze” by many is still affecting a large area of the United States.

Smoke from the Canadian wildfires continues to make its way down into our region, it is important to check for air quality warnings.

Nurse Practitioner Lisa Walker with Raleigh General Hospital told 59News people with existing heart or lung issues should be especially careful.

“Low air quality is going to really exacerbate people who have lung disease, especially our COPD population,” said Walker. “It’s also going to aggravate if you are already a smoker and you’re adding an extra air irritant to what you are breathing in.”

Walker added that children with asthma are also at an increased risk with air quality much lower than normal.

She warned that if you do suffer from respiratory problems, it may be best to wait a few days before doing any strenuous physical activities outside.