Our coverage of air quality concerns in New Jersey

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Intense fires in northern Canada, triggered by lightning, sent a heavy stream of thick smoke into North Jersey this week, turning the sky a Mars-like orange hue and filling people’s nostrils with a bitter, acrid smell.

The smoke caused the region’s bad air index to skyrocket above levels normally experienced by cities that have traditionally endured the worst air quality, including New Delhi, Beijing and Lahore, Pakistan.

The smoke became so thick Wednesday afternoon that it obliterated the striking views of the Empire State Building normally enjoyed by North Jersey residents along the Hudson. Some schools have closed early and coaches have moved sports practices indoors. Officials said air quality may improve a bit on Thursday, but the weather conditions sending the smoke aren’t likely to change until Saturday.

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