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Wildfire smoke leads to air quality statement for much of Alberta

Click to play video: 'High temperatures, poor air quality in Edmonton as wildfire smoke moves in from B.C.' High temperatures, poor air quality in Edmonton as wildfire smoke moves in from B.C.
Hot temperatures in Edmonton had been drawing people outdoors this week — until wildfire smoke moved in from B.C. on Thursday, decreasing the air quality so much Environment Canada issues an alert. Morgan Black explains – Jul 15, 2021

An air quality statement has been issued for much of Alberta as smoke from wildfires burning on the west coast has made its way across the province.

Environment Canada issued the warning Thursday morning.

“Wildfire smoke is causing poor air quality and reducing visibility,” the statement read.

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Environment Canada meteorologist Kyle Fougere said the smoke is being brought into Alberta by a ridge of high pressure over the Western United States, causing a southwest flow into the province.

“Right now we’re seeing a lot of smoke settle in central and southern Alberta, resulting in poor air quality,” he said.

Concentrations of that smoke will vary throughout Thursday, Fougere said, and were expected to get worse through the afternoon, thanks to air mixing down from the higher atmosphere.

Click to play video: 'How poor air quality impacts your health' How poor air quality impacts your health
How poor air quality impacts your health – Jul 7, 2021

Making matters worse was pollutants that were already in the air — and causing slightly higher numbers on the air quality health index — are now trapped at the surface by the smoke.

Fougere said weather conditions aren’t expected change in a way that will clear out the smoke anytime soon.

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“There will be times when the concentration is less than it is today, but for the next week we don’t really see a big change that’s going to clear out the province.

“We can expect to deal with this wildfire smoke for an extended period of time.”

The Queen Elizabeth outdoor pool in Edmonton, Alta. on Thursday, July 15, 2021. Global News

In Edmonton, the city closed all outdoor pools due to the poor air quality.

The city closes non-essential work when the AQHI reaches a seven, or high risk. The pools will be reopened when air quality improves. People with time slots booked will receive an email and their tickets will be automatically refunded.

People whose tickets are cancelled can attempt to rebook at another date.

Green shacks and the fountain outside city hall were also closed.

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Splash parks that were open for the season were unaffected as of 1 p.m. Thursday afternoon, according to the city’s website.

Employees at city cemeteries were also sent home, unless there was an internment happening Thursday.

The Kinsmen Spray Park near the Queen Elizabeth outdoor pool in Edmonton, Alta. on Thursday, July 15, 2021. Global News

The AQHI showed numbers as high as eight for the areas under the warning Thursday morning. The forecast maximum shows the air quality is expected to improve by Friday night.

“When an air quality advisory is in effect, all individuals living in or travelling within the affected area are advised to be aware of potential health concerns that can be associated with poor air quality conditions,” Alberta Health Services says on its air quality page.

Read more: Evacuation orders issued as total number of B.C. wildfires top 1,000

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AHS has a number of suggestions to deal with poor air quality due to smoke, including:

  • Close all outside windows and doors
  • Turn furnace thermostats and furnace fans to the minimum setting, but do not extinguish pilot light
  • Keep the fresh-air intake on air conditioning units closed and the filter clean
  • Avoid running “whole-house fans” or “fresh air ventilation systems” that bring smoky air inside
  • Close all floor registers
  • Close fire place dampers on wood-burning fireplaces
  • Do not use wood-burning fireplaces, wood stoves or other smoke-producing appliances or features, including candles
  • Keep car windows and vents closed when driving and run fans on re-circulate mode
  • Do not smoke tobacco

People with respiratory conditions and those with existing cardiovascular conditions may notice a worsening of symptoms, AHS warned.

“These individuals should monitor for worsening of symptoms and take the precautions routinely recommended by their physicians if a worsening of symptoms occurs.”

Read more: The particles, gases and organisms in wildfire smoke — and what they mean for your health

While air quality is high, its recommended to reduce physical activity to decrease the inhalation of airborne pollutants.

“That’s when we really want people to take precautions and try to reduce their exposure to the poor air quality,” Fougere said.

Anyone experiencing symptoms due to the smoke can call Health Link at 811 to speak with a registered nurse.

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