B.C. smoke triggers Alta. health warning

Health officials have issued a warning that smoke drifting into Alberta from the forest fires in British Columbia poses a potential health risk.
Smoke from wildfires in British Columbia, like this one near Tsacha Lake, is drifting east to Alberta. ((B.C. Forest Service))
Health officials issued a warning Thursday that smoke drifting into Alberta from the forest fires in British Columbia poses a potential health risk.

Albertans should take precautions as air quality across the province continues to deteriorate, said a release issued by Alberta Health Services (AHS).

"I strongly advise people with asthma, bronchitis or emphysema to remain indoors, keep their windows closed and take any preventative measures their physicians have previously recommended," said Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr. André Corriveau.

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Even healthy people should refrain from strenuous activities outdoors where the air quality is bad. Smoke and fine particulate matter in the air can be absorbed deep into a person's lungs, Corriveau said.

Advisory expected to last several days

In Edmonton, the fire department received around 45 calls by the middle of the day from people who were concerned about the appearance or smell of smoke. STARS air ambulance grounded flights out of its downtown base Wednesday afternoon due to poor visibility.

The advisory didn't stop runners from taking to the trails in Edmonton.

Gord Beck said he just noticed the unpleasant smell of burning wood. "You definitely notice something in the air … but it's not too bad."

"It's just like being around a campsite more than anything," said Mike Walesiak, who also didn't feel any effects from the smoke.

Smoke from the wildfires can be seen near downtown Edmonton on Thursday. (CBC)
Smoke is expected to continue drifting into Alberta until at least Sunday, according to Bluesky, a smoke forecasting system used by Alberta and B.C.

"It could get worse in the next few hours or next few days," said Dr. Martin Lavoie, deputy chief medical officer of health with Alberta Health and Wellness. He expected the advisory to last a few more days.

Alberta Environment, Alberta Health and Wellness and AHS are working together to monitor air quality throughout the province. Information on the current air quality is available on Alberta Environment's website.

 Those who have concerns about the smoke's effects can contact Health Link Alberta to speak to a registered nurse. The toll-free number is 1-866-408-LINK (5465).