May 6, 2016 7:29 pm
Updated: May 9, 2016 8:23 am

Fort McMurray smoke spreads to Sask. causing poor air quality

WATCH ABOVE: Shifting winds have blown smoke from the Fort McMurray fires into Saskatchewan and an air quality advisory has been issued. Jacqueline Wilson finds out what health risks are associated with the Alberta haze.


SASKATOON – Strong northwesterly winds continue to spread smoke from the Fort McMurray forest fires into portions of western Saskatchewan, causing poor air quality and very high health risk conditions.

The Government of Saskatchewan is warning residents that conditions can change rapidly.

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“We will see some smoke and it will vary from community to community and from hour to hour so it may come for a couple of hours and then because of the prevailing winds it may go away,” said Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer.

FULL COVERAGE: Fort McMurray Wildfire

“It may be hazy, but if you can see horizontally for more than a kilometer then there’s no ground level smoke, generally it’s fine to do your usual outdoor activities,” said Shahab.

Jill Hubick, a registered nurse and certified respiratory educator, says that beyond watery eyes, throat irritation and headaches, smoke can cause serious health issues.

“It can lead to more serious impacts, shortness of breath, cough, chest tightening. Those with lung disease and heart disease need to be extra cautious,” said Hubick.

“A lung attack is just as serious and just as deadly as a heart attack.”

The Lung Association is asking municipalities and fire departments to put fire bans in place, making a province-wide ban.

“We know that most of the province is in extreme risk for fires, but in addition to the environment we also want to protect everyone’s lung health and we don’t want to be adding to the already existing smoke that’s coming in from Alberta,” said Hubick.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan sends expert help to Alberta to address raging wildfires

But, according to the fire department, Saskatoon isn’t currently in need of a fire ban.

“The city itself, Saskatoon, doesn’t have a fire ban. The conditions are very dry as you well know, but the interesting thing is that Sask. Environment provides a mapping and measuring of how fast fire spreads and so we’re actually very, very low in terms of our fire spread rate,” said Dave Bykowy, Saskatoon Fire Department communications and public relations assistant chief.

The fire spread rate is determined by the level of surface moisture on the ground.

However, the RM of Corman Park, around the perimeter of the city, does have a fire ban to minimize grass fires, which would add to the already hazy conditions.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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