Edmonton

Smoke from B.C. wildfires prompts air quality advisories across Alberta

Smoke from numerous B.C. wildfires is drifting into Alberta, prompting Alberta Health Services to issue a precautionary air quality advisory for the entire province.

Almost every area of the province affected by smoky conditions

Smoke settles over Edmonton Wednesday. (CBC)

Smoke from numerous B.C. wildfires is drifting into Alberta, prompting Alberta Health Services to issue a precautionary air quality advisory for the entire province.

A high-pressure system is helping to "spread out that smoke" in this province, said John-Paul Cragg, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada.

"So it's not just one general area where that smoke is moving in," Cragg said.

"It's mixing into the air across Alberta, sinking to the ground, and reducing the air quality. It's also giving that hazy look to the skies," he said, speaking on CBC's Edmonton AM on Wednesday.

Alberta residents and visitors are advised to be aware of air conditions and take precautions, AHS said in its advisory, which will remain in effect until further notice.

"Although minor smoke conditions do not typically cause health concerns in healthy individuals, if smoke conditions become more severe, even healthy individuals may experience temporary irritation of eyes and throat, and possibly shortness of breath," AHS said.

If you can taste and/or smell smoke in the air, you should stay indoors with windows, doors and air vents closed, AHS said.

People with respiratory or cardiovascular conditions may notice their symptoms worsening in smoky air conditions. They should monitor their symptoms and take precautions recommended by their doctors, AHS said.

Environment Canada issued a special air quality statement on Tuesday.

While temperatures in some parts of Alberta are forecasted to rise to near record-breaking levels by the end of the week, the smoke may offer a slight reprieve from the extreme heat.

"This forest fire smoke might actually reflect some of the sun's rays and keep the temperatures at the ground a little bit cooler than what we're forecasting right now," Cragg said. 

Winds from the Northwest Territories and Yukon are predicted to sweep into Alberta early next week, likely easing the smoky, hazy conditions, he said.

But that could change quickly again.

"As long as those forest fires are burning in B.C., we still have that risk of smoke moving back into Alberta. That's something to look out for in the future," Cragg said.

The smoke, combined with high temperatures, will have the greatest impact on those suffering from respiratory issues.

"If you do have any health conditions that can be exacerbated by both (smoke and heat), those two will come together to create a worse situation for you," he said.

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