Smoke from BC wildfires affecting health

Clay Curtis
August 24, 2018

After a brief reprieve from the thick wildfire smoke, another shift in the winds is sending the air quality levels back to extreme values across Alberta and parts of Saskatchewan.

Looking west from Shaganappi Trail at Bowness Road, the Canada Olympic Park ski jump was nearly totally obscured by smoke from B.C. wildfires on Thursday morning. Environment Canada warned that smoke from the B.C. fires would return to the area by the afternoon, reducing visibility and leaving the area with a "very high risk" rating on the Air Quality Health Index.

Dan Kulak, meteorologist with Environment Canada, said the air quality index is based on readings of nitrogen, ozone and particles of forest fire material in the air.

Jeff Joseph from Bragg Creek west of Calgary shared this picture of a smoky sunset Wednesday night.

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Pregnant women should also take precautions because exposure to smoke can cause lower birth weights, likely leading to long-term problems, she said in an interview. If you are experiencing symptoms such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing, follow the advice of your healthcare provider.

The BC Wildfire Service says about 550 fires are burning, but there weren't many lightning strikes over the weekend and that gave crews a chance to concentrate on some of the 54 blazes now threatening people or property. "Children, seniors, and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk".

To get a better understanding of how poor our air quality is right now, some famously polluted locations around the world are breathing better air.

Forrest Tower, an information officer with the BC Wildfire Service, said smoke preventing aerial reconnaissance and firefighting operations was the "biggest struggle" for crews on the front lines. By Friday, however, he said conditions should "definitely be improving".

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