Smoke from raging wildfires in Quebec is being seen and smelled in a large part of Ontario on Tuesday, which has prompted special air quality statements from Environment Canada.
The weather agency has placed much of southern Ontario under a special air quality statement, excluding some southwestern areas from London to Windsor.
It said high levels of air pollution are possible due to smoke plumes from forest fires in Quebec, which may result in deteriorated air quality for most of the week.
“Air quality and visibility due to wildfire smoke can fluctuate over short distances and can vary considerably from hour to hour,” Environment Canada said.
In eastern and parts of northern Ontario, Environment Canada is also warning of high levels of air pollution. Some of the smoke in northern Ontario is coming from blazes in that area of the province.
“Wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone’s health even at low concentrations,” the weather agency said.
“Continue to take actions to protect your health and reduce exposure to smoke. People with lung disease (such as asthma) or heart disease, older adults, children, pregnant people, and people who work outdoors are at higher risk of experiencing health effects caused by wildfire smoke.”
Global News meteorologist Anthony Farnell said the vast majority of the smoke being experienced in southern and eastern Ontario is coming from Quebec.
“It came in almost like a wall this morning and it showed up on satellite. And we’ve been tracking this now basically for weeks, but the origin of the smoke is what changes,” he said.
“Most of this, 99 per cent of it, is coming from the fires burning in the province of Quebec.”
Farnell said what makes this event especially unique is that the smoke is at a lower level in the atmosphere.
“That is what should concern all of us, not just the elderly (or) those with respiratory problems,” he said.
The Ottawa Valley and even parts of the Greater Toronto Area are experiencing some of the poorest air quality in North America, Farnell said.
He said the smoke will be experienced on and off at least for the next few days.
Farnell said dry conditions and warm temperatures experienced over a large part of Canada in the middle of Spring is what has led to these fires.
“First out west, then in Nova Scotia. And now we’re seeing it in parts of Ontario and Quebec,” he said.
“Different sources, but it’s now just trapped between a low (pressure system) that thankfully brought a ton of rain to Atlantic Canada — their fire situation is pretty much over — and this big high (pressure system) that’s sitting over northern Ontario, and that’s what’s funneling it south towards us.”
Farnell said in areas where the fires are burning, “very little moisture” is expected for at least the next 10 days or so.
Environment Canada advised the public to stop outdoor activities and contact their health-care provider if symptoms from the smoke develop, stay inside if feeling unwell, use a HEPA air purifier inside homes, and use a well-fitted respirator mask if spending time outside to protect from fine particles.
Government officials warned Monday that Canada could see a “record” level of land burnt amid an “unprecedented” wildfire season this year.
Nine provinces and territories are battling blazes that have forced the evacuation of more than 100,000 people across the country since early May, officials said in an update.
In Quebec on Monday, the premier announced that the province will receive help from abroad in the coming days as about 10,000 people have been forced to leave their homes due to the raging wildfires.
François Legault’s update on the situation came as the tally rose to 164 wildfires burning across the province, including at least 114 that are out of control.
Environment Canada has issued smog warnings for large portions of Quebec due to the blazes, including for Montreal and Quebec City.
— with files from Kalina Laframboise and Saba Aziz