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Wildfire smoke forecast: Poor air quality in Western Canada, haze in Ontario and Quebec

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Wildfires continue to impact air quality across Western Canada, with conditions expected to worsen today before improving on Thursday.

 

Environment Canada has upgraded its air quality advisory in northern Alberta to reflect deteriorating conditions. Air quality warnings are now in effect for much of the northern part of the province, including communities like Fort McMurray, Fort Chipewyan and High Level, which are experiencing severely reduced air quality and low visibility due to wildfire smoke.

"Winds are expected to shift this evening, along with some localized precipitation," Environment Canada said in its air quality advisory. "As a result there may be some slight improvement in air quality for portions of the region on Thursday."

 

In Alberta, less severe air quality statements are also in effect for nearby communities like Grande Prairie, High Prairie and Wabasca. Air quality statements meanwhile cover northeastern B.C. around Fort Nelson, northern and eastern Saskatchewan communities like Fond-du-Lac and La Ronge, and areas along the Saskatchewan-Manitoba border like Cumberland House and The Pas.

"Air quality and visibility due to wildfire smoke can fluctuate over short distances and can vary considerably from hour to hour," Environment Canada cautioned. "The fine particles in wildfire smoke pose the main health risk. As smoke levels increase, health risks increase."

Those most at-risk include seniors, pregnant people, smokers, infants, young children, people who work outdoors, and those with existing illness or chronic health conditions.

"Those who are more likely to be impacted should reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors or seek medical attention if experiencing symptoms," Environment Canada advised. "Symptoms can include milder and more common symptoms such as eye, nose and throat irritation, as well as serious but less common symptoms such as chest pains or severe cough."

According to CTV Your Morning's meteorologist Kelsey McEwen, wildfires are also creating hazy conditions further afield, including in southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and in Ontario and Quebec from Georgian Bay through Ottawa to Quebec City. Smoke is expected to continue drifting into northwestern Ontario on Thursday, while conditions are expected to improve at the same time in eastern Ontario and southern Quebec. In B.C., winds are also expected to start pushing smoke westward.

According to ata published by the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) as of May 14, there are 133 active wildfires burning across the country, down from 138 reported earlier Tuesday. The CIFFC reports 42 are currently considered "out of control." B.C. has the most active fires, at 46, followed closely by Alberta, at 45. Fires are also present in Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.

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