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B.C. forest fires could impact Manitoba's air quality for rest of August

Manitoba could be at risk of compromised air quality for the rest of August as wildfires continue to burn in British Columbia, says a meteorologist with Environment Canada.

Air quality advisories, burn bans remain in effect for southwestern Manitoba

A yellow tint blankets Winnipeg Thursday as wildfires raging out west continue to puff smoke toward the Prairies. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Manitoba could be at risk of compromised air quality for the rest of August as wildfires continue to burn in British Columbia, says a meteorologist with Environment Canada.

Air quality advisories remain in effect Thursday for southwest Manitoba as smoke from forest fires burning across British Columbia drifts east. 

Burn bans are also in effect through parts of central, southeastern and much of southwestern Manitoba due to current conditions.

Elevated pollution levels are expected or occurring, which could cause increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath for some people, says Environment Canada. 

A hazy sun hangs over Brandon, Man., on Thursday morning. (Riley Laychuk/CBC )

Over the course of the day, air quality could improve for southern Manitoba, but winds from the west could make smoky conditions return again tomorrow, said John Paul Cragg, with Environment Canada.

By this weekend, north winds are expected to clean the air in the province, he said. 

Smoke from B.C. wildfires gives the landscape around Brandon, Man., an eerie look on Thursday morning. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

In Winnipeg, though conditions are hazy, they are low risk, Cragg said. 

"It all has to do with how much of that smoke is getting to the ground," he said. 

The smoke should not create issues for people "as long as the smoke stays up in the air and is not making it down to where people are breathing it in." 

Watch for symptoms, doctor says 

Young children, seniors, and those with chronic lung health problems are at greater risk of being impacted and should take extra precautions, like avoiding being outside for too long, said Dr. Heejune Chang, medical officer of health.

Even if you're not in those categories, you should watch for early symptoms that the air pollution is bothering you like itchy eyes or a sore throat, she said. 

"If you're starting to feel that way, it's maybe time to get out of the outdoors and take refuge indoors," she said. 

For people with lung issues, air pollution can have a huge impact on their day-to-day life, said Kyle Mason, director of development of the Manitoba Lung Association. 

Air quality advisories are still in effect for southwestern Manitoba Thursday, including in Brandon. (Riley Laychuck/CBC )

"This can really damage their day. It can limit their activity, it can really impact their health — especially if they're really struggling, it can really be a serious concern for people," he said. 

The B.C. government declared a provincewide state of emergency Wednesday due to the forest fires. 

If you're concerned, Environment Canada advises that you contact your health-care provider or call Health Links at 204-788-8200 or toll-free at 1-888-315-9257.

More information on the health effects of smoke is available here