Wildfire smoke descends on Calgary, air quality index at 'very high risk'
Officials say air quality is so poor it could affect otherwise healthy people outside
An air quality alert was extended Tuesday morning to cover the city of Calgary as smoke from wildfires burning across Western Canada has descended on parts of southern Alberta, replacing the bluebird sky with an eerie orange glow.
Environment and Climate Change Canada issued the special air quality statement shortly before 8 a.m., hours after Calgarians awoke to a hazy, red sunrise.
According to the agency, the air quality index for the city on Tuesday morning was listed at the top of the scale, at 10+, or "very high risk."
"The air quality is so poor that even those without pre-existing health conditions could experience symptoms such as difficulty breathing, especially if you're doing strenuous activity outside," said Sara Hoffman, a meteorologist with Environment Canada.
Children, older adults, and those with lung or heart conditions are advised to be especially cautious and reduce activity outside if breathing becomes difficult. If severe symptoms develop, affected individuals should contact their health-care provider.
For those without pre-existing conditions, they are advised to beware of developing symptoms while outside such as a sore throat or coughing.
To find relief from the smoky air, people are advised to visit places with clean, cool air, such as shopping malls or libraries.
Speaking on the Calgary Eyeopener on Tuesday, Dr. Raj Bhardwaj, a physician and an assistant professor at the University of Calgary, said smoke from burning wood is made of tiny particles that people can breathe deeply into their lungs.
"It's smaller than normal dust," he said. "It causes a lot of irritation and inflammation."
The City of Calgary issued a fire advisory due to the increased smoke in the area.
While the fire department said current fire conditions are moderate, they might change amid Tuesday's warm and windy conditions.
If conditions change, the city might move to a fire restriction or fire ban. Rocky View County, which surrounds Calgary on three sides, is under a fire ban.
When will the smoke clear?
According to Hoffman, a ridge of high pressure has trapped smoke from provincial wildfires at the surface level, and a recent shift in wind direction has brought the smoke to southern Alberta.
This weekend, however, Hoffman said another ridge of high pressure is expected to bring southerly winds, perhaps leading to a reprieve from the smoke.
According to a forecast map from BlueSky Canada, smoke from fires across Western Canada is expected to drift into southern Alberta over the next few days.