Mexico cancels school in capital due to poor air quality

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico's education ministry canceled schools in the capital and surrounding areas for Thursday due to a siege of air pollution.

Weather conditions at the end of Mexico's dry season combined with dozens of brushfires burning in and around the city have produced a blanket of smoky haze.

The federal Environment Department said Wednesday that 3,800 firefighters are combatting an average of about 100 fires a day in brush, scrub, agricultural and forest land throughout the country. Fire risk is highest in the spring for much of Mexico because the summer rainy season has not yet started.

Officials have warned that it could be harmful to at-risk people, especially due to high levels of tiny particles in the air. It triggered a pollution alert this week in Mexico City.

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Pollution in Mexico City
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Pollution in Mexico City
Picture of buildings of the concrete jungle of Mexico City seen through smog on February 14, 2014 from the Latin American Tower.(Photo credit: RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
A general view of the smog covering the Mexico City skyline on March 30, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ Yuri CORTEZ (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A general view of the smog covering the Mexico City skyline on March 30, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ Yuri CORTEZ (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
View of heavy traffic in Reforma avenue, one of the main streets of Mexico City, on February 12, 2008. The mayor's office of the Mexican capital is trying to reduce the effects of the high pollution caused by cars by extending the current plan -which bans 20% of the cars (depending on the numberplate for each day) to drive in labour days- to Saturdays. AFP PHOTO/Omar Torres (Photo credit should read OMAR TORRES/AFP/Getty Images)
Mexico City. (Photo By BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images)
Pollution blankets Mexico city against a backdrop of the Ixtcihuatl volcano 18 January 2002. In Mexico City more than 60 000 people died each year from complications related to the pollution, according to environmentalist groups. (Photo credit should read JORGE UZON/AFP/Getty Images)
MEXICO - JUNE 06: Aerial view of the city's streets and buildings. Mexico City, Federal District, Mexico. (Photo by Stephanie Maze/National Geographic/Getty Images)
MEXICO - MARCH 01: Sunlight tries to break through the smog on a busy street, Mexico City, Mexico (Photo by Stephanie Maze/National Geographic/Getty Images)
General view early morning 7 February, 2007 of Mexico City already covered by a layer of smog. Mexico City is considered as one of the most polluted cities in the world. AFP PHOTO/Ronaldo SCHEMITD (Photo credit should read Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)
Mexico City, MEXICO: Demonstrators from San Luis Potosi stand protest in front of the Canadian embassy 28 February 2007 in Mexico City against Canadian company Metallica Resources Inc. The company extracts gold and silver from the San Pedro mountain in San Luis Potosi, 400 km from Mexico City, polluting the water in the region, protesters said. AFP PHOTO/Luis ACOSTA (Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)
Mexico City, Mexico-October 29,2003- One of the aguas negras in Mexico City, a sewage ditch. Juan Manuel Nava Gonzalez, age 20 (left) Gilberto Cano Medina, age 28 (right)(DENVER POST PHOTO BY LYN ALWEIS) (Photo By Lyn Alweis/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Buildings stand in the Polanco neighborhood as seen in this aerial photograph taken from a helicopter in the Condor Group, a fleet of helicopters operated by the Federal District Secretariat of Public Security, in Mexico City, Mexico, on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. The group provides air support to the population of Mexico City in emergencies, as well as surveillance and traffic monitoring. Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Traffic moves down a street in this aerial photo taken during a Red Wings Co. TuriSky helicopter tour of Mexico City, Mexico, on Friday, May 22, 2015. Red Wings Co. is a boutique airline offering executive jet flights and helicopter tours of Mexico City through its TuriSky service, a joint alliance with the ADO Group. Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - AUGUST 13: Heavy traffic fills streets at the end of a workday August 13, 2010 in Mexico City, Mexico. Traffic jams are a big problem in the city. (Photo by Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)
MEXICO CITY - AUGUST 30: Workers from the electrical sector block traffic during a protest against the privatization of the electrical industry 30 August 2002 Mexico City. An estimated 10,000 workers took part in the demonstration. (Photo by Alfredo ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
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City environmental officials announced the closure Thursday of a park and zoo on the south side of the city as well as children's playgrounds in the sprawling Chapultepec Park.

The conditions also led to the postponement of professional soccer and baseball games in Mexico City this week as well as the imposition of driving limits due to high ozone levels.

On Wednesday, the soccer league announced that a semifinal match between America and Leon that had already been postponed due to air quality would be moved out of the city and played in Queretaro on Thursday.

The league said its original backup plan was to play the game in Toluca, capital of neighboring Mexico state, but air quality there also is too poor.

The National Autonomous University of Mexico also announced it would suspend all activities at its facilities in the metropolitan area Thursday.

Some 20 million people live in the Mexico City metropolitan area.

Mexico is facing an extremely heavy season of brush and forest fires, with 4,425 blazes recorded so far this year. About 378,000 acres (152,952 hectares) have been burned, officials say.

On Monday, NASA's Discover the Earth Observing System Data and Information System featured images showing smoke plumes over southern Mexico in its #NASAWorldview Twitter feed.

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