July 17, 2014 12:20 pm
Updated: July 17, 2014 9:35 pm

Smoke from forest fires covers Edmonton in haze and ash

Watch above: Northern forest fires are taking their toll on Edmonton in the form of smoke, haze and ash. Fletcher Kent has the details.

EDMONTON – The capital city was covered in an orange haze Wednesday morning, as winds from the northwest blew smoke and ash from forest fires into the region.

As of 11 a.m. on Thursday, Alberta Environment had Edmonton’s air quality health index listed as a level 4 (moderate risk), with a maximum of level 5 for the day.

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By 8:30 p.m. Thursday, the air quality health index in Edmonton had dropped to a level 3, which is a low risk.

Click here to view the current Air Quality Health Index, which is updated hourly.

On Wednesday, Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development said it’s hard to pinpoint where the ash is coming from. A spokesperson for the department believes the smoke is a combination of a couple of different fires in Alberta, N.W.T. and B.C.

“The winds are out of the northwest,” explained Global Edmonton meteorologist Nicola Crosbie. “I reviewed the visible satellite and it’s my opinion that the smoke is moving into the Edmonton area from the large, out of control fire that is burning near Edson.”

“The higher pressure is becoming more intense,” she added. “Any pollutants that are within the city already, and anything being funneled in, will get trapped because it can’t go anywhere.” “Instead of rising air… the air is just descending.”

“It is my opinion that the smoke burning from the 3,000-hectare fire south of Grande Prairie, and the 400-hectare fire near the Edson area are visible on satellite,” said Crosbie on Wednesday afternoon.

“They appear as a milky white film coming from the west.  It also appears that smoke from the fires burning in central B.C. is also feeding over the mountains in the westerly flow.

“The smoke looks like it stretches as far south as Red Deer,” she added. “It will continue to travel in the northwest winds, spreading east and southeast of Edmonton.”

She said there is a cold front coming in late Wednesday night, early Thursday that will likely bring rain and wind, which should help.

Early Wednesday afternoon, Alberta Environment has Edmonton’s air quality level at 5. By 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, the air quality level had dropped to 3, which is in the low range on Alberta Environment’s scale. Although the air quality health index is expected to rise to 5 again Thursday.

“This is actually quite poor air quality,” said Dr. Chris Sikora with Alberta Health Services. “It’s due to forest fires. It’s due to particulate matter being blown in from forest fires.”

“When air quality is listed as being very poor – as it is right now and likely will be off-and-on for the next several days – we’re reminding people to monitor their symptoms,” Sikora added. He said people should look out for headaches, cough, shortness of breath or chest pain or discomfort.

“Reduce your strenuous activity. If you would normally go out for a run, consider postponing that or staying indoors to do your physical activity.”

In addition, Sikora said AHS is “particularly concerned about” the very young, the very elderly, and people with pre-existing lung or heart conditions. Sikora says those individuals should eliminate strenuous outdoor activity altogether.

A Precautionary Air Quality Advisory was issued for the North, Edmonton and Central zones of Alberta Health Services on July 7. That advisory is still in effect.

At 4 p.m. Friday, Environment Canada had Edmonton’s air quality as a 5 – or ‘moderate risk.’ 

Crews in B.C. are currently battling dozens of wildfires across the province, and there are a number of evacuation alerts and orders in place.

A serious wildfire near the B.C.-Alberta border caused the Municipal District of Greenview to declare a state of local emergency and evacuation order for parts of its region Tuesday evening.

READ MORE: Fire near B.C.-Alberta border prompts evacuation order 

There are about 175 fires burning in the Northwest Territories.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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