Editor’s note: the article has been updated to reflect the changed air quality statement for the province by Environment Canada.
Environment Canada dropped the special air quality statement that covered most of the province on Monday.
A special air quality statement remains for Alberta’s mountain regions, including Banff National Park, Crowsnest Pass, Pincher Creek, Waterton Lakes National Park, Jasper National Park, Kananaskis and Canmore.
Plumes of smoke from the B.C. wildfires rolled into Alberta on Aug. 14, which prompted Environment Canada to issue air quality advisories for the province.
The national weather agency said much of Alberta would experience poor air quality and reduced visibility. The advisory covered the whole province and also stretched into Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Much of Alberta was under the same advisory between Aug. 6-10, however cooler weather and rain later during that week brought some short-lived relief.
Alberta Health measures the air quality health index (AQHI) on a scale of one to 10, with the higher the number, the greater the health risk.
A 10+ is considered “very high risk,” at which point Alberta Health suggests people avoid strenuous activities outdoors, and children and the elderly should also avoid outdoor physical exertion.
Aug. 17 smoke forecast
On Aug. 17, the air quality was expected to be poor across much of Alberta. Most areas were forecasted to be between 7 and 10 on the AQHI scale.
The Grande Prairie region was at a 10+ by 8 a.m. Aug. 17.
The Edmonton area, including Lamont County and Strathcona County, was expected to reach a 10.
Central Alberta, Calgary, and southern Alberta were also expected to be high on the scale.
On Aug. 15, large sections of the province were at a 10 or 10+ on the scale, including Edmonton, Calgary, Airdrie, Bruderheim, Caroline, Elk Island, Genesee, Hinton, Redwater, and Bonnyville areas.
The city of Edmonton said almost all of the outdoor pools were closed Aug. 15 due to the poor air quality. “Air conditions will be monitored, and outdoor pools will re-open if conditions improve,” a tweet said.
WATCH: There’s no escaping the smoke: a thick haze and the smell of campfire settled over Edmonton on Wednesday. Fletcher Kent has more on the health implications of such poor air quality.
The air quality was slightly better on Aug. 16.
Environment Canada said smoke conditions can change quickly over short distances and can vary considerably hour-by-hour so the AQHI could change.
The joint advisory issued by Environment Canada, Alberta Environment and Parks and Alberta Health said people may experience increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath. Children, seniors, and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk.
WATCH: Global News Morning Calgary’s Traci Nagai talks about Calgary’s smoky air and the associated health risks.
People with lung diseases, such as asthma and COPD, can be particularly sensitive to air pollution. They will generally experience more serious health effects at lower levels. Pollution can aggravate their diseases, leading to increased medication use, doctor and emergency room visits, and hospital visits.
LISTEN BELOW: Chief meteorologist Jesse Beyer speaks with the 630 CHED Afternoon News about the smoke in Edmonton
The agencies recommend staying inside if you have breathing difficulties. Find an indoor place that’s cool and ventilated. Using an air conditioner that cools and filters air may help. If you open the windows you may let in more polluted air. If your home isn’t air-conditioned, consider going to a public place (library, shopping mall, recreation centre) that is air-conditioned.
Why so much smoke?
There are more than 600 wildfires burning across British Columbia — which is more than during the record season of 2017.
As of Aug. 14, there were 46 “wildfires of note” burning across B.C. Wildfires of note are wildfires which are highly visible or which pose a potential threat to public safety.
Seven are in the Kamloops Fire Centre, which includes the Okanagan, nine in the Cariboo Fire Centre, 15 in the Southeast Fire Centre, five in the Prince George Fire Centre, eight in the Northwest Fire Centre and two in the Coastal Fire Centre.