The haze caused poor air quality and reduced visibility over much of Alberta on Friday morning. Conditions are forecast to remain smoky through the weekend, according to Environment Canada.
The weather agency said for central and southern Alberta, the thickest smoke is expected to more northwestwards on Friday.
Alberta’s Air Quality Health Index is measured on a scale, ranging from 1 to 10+. Anything from 1-3 is considered a low risk, 4-6 is a moderate risk, 7-10 is a high risk and 10+ is very high risk.
Edmonton air quality forecast and school board policies
Edmonton was at a 2 on Alberta’s AQHI on Friday morning and reached 7 by the afternoon.
Saturday’s air quality forecast for Edmonton was 7, as of Friday afternoon.
Edmonton Catholic Schools’ policy is to keep students indoors at lunch and recess when the air quality health index reaches 7 or higher.
Edmonton Public Schools also keeps students indoors with the windows closed when Environment Canada issues an air quality rating at 7 or higher. Air conditions and HVAC air systems remain on, according to the school board’s policy.
“Principals will use this guideline to make the best decisions for the health and safety of their students,” EPS spokeswoman Megan Normandeau said in a statement.
Watch below: The wildfire situation in northern Alberta appears to be intensifying. New images from the Paddle Prairie Métis Settlement show the toll fire has already taken on their community. (Filed May 30, 2019).
Calgary air quality forecast and school board policies
Air quality conditions in Calgary and other parts of southern Alberta were much worse on Friday. Calgary’s AQHI level was a 10+ on Friday morning. That risk was forecast to remain very high into Friday night.
Saturday’s air quality forecast for Calgary was 6, as of Friday afternoon.
The Calgary Catholic School District said Friday that all outdoor activities were cancelled for the day due to heavy smoke and poor air quality.
The school district said efforts were made Friday to improve air quality inside their schools, which included reducing the amount of outdoor air coming into buildings and portables.
Students will be monitored for symptoms of poor air quality, the school board said.
The Calgary Board of Education said principals make decisions based on local conditions, but the board’s guidelines are to consider indoor recess and lunch for students when the AQHI reaches 10+.
When it comes to other outdoor activities, Calgary Minor Soccer advises games and practices should be delayed or rescheduled if the AQHI reaches 7 or higher.
Northern Alberta air quality
The air quality was a bit better in parts of northern Alberta on Friday morning, but jumped to a 7 for Fort McKay. Fort McMurray was at 3 on Friday afternoon, while Cold Lake was at 2.
Grande Prairie’s air quality was at 10+ on Friday afternoon, and Fort Chipewyan’s was at 2.
Southern Alberta air quality
Lethbridge and Medicine Hat both sat on the high risk end of the scale on Friday morning but things got a bit better by the afternoon, with their AQHI at 6 and 4 respectively.
Central Alberta air quality
The air quality through central Alberta remained on the moderate to high side Friday afternoon. Spruce Grove and Drayton Valley’s AQHI were at an 8 and Red Deer was at 10+.
During special air quality statements, people may find themselves coughing more or experience throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath.
Children, seniors and people with cardiovascular or lung disease such as asthma and COPD are especially at risk.
People experiencing difficulty breathing should stay inside where it’s cool and ventilated. Using an air conditioner may help. For more information, visit the Alberta Health Services website.