Air quality improves as wildfire smoke dissipates across Alberta

·2 min read
Smoke shrouds Edmonton Monday as wildfires continued to burn across Western Canada.  (Jamie McCannel/CBC - image credit)
Smoke shrouds Edmonton Monday as wildfires continued to burn across Western Canada. (Jamie McCannel/CBC - image credit)

Smoke that has choked out the sun, polluted the air and turned the summer sky over Alberta gloomy grey is expected to dissipate across the province in the coming days.

Albertans are expected to get some relief from the haze created by wildfires burning amid bone-dry conditions across Western Canada.

A series of special air quality statements that blanketed almost every region of Alberta since last week have now been lifted.

Environment Canada suggests that the air quality will continue to improve this week.

Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Fort McMurray and other centres can all expect air quality in the "low risk" range Wednesday and Thursday.

As of Wednesday morning, the only active special air quality statements in the province covered Wood Buffalo National Park and the northern community of Fort Chipewyan.

Smoke from wildfires started blowing into Alberta from B.C. last Thursday, creating poor air quality and reducing visibility.

By the weekend, the entire province was put under a special air quality alert. On Monday, a change in wind meant smoke from wildfires burning in Saskatchewan also began wafting across the border.

In some communities shrouded by smoke, the air quality health index reached 10+ — the highest and most dangerous level. It means "very high risk."

Albertans were warned to stay indoors with their windows and doors shut, to avoid outside exercise, and to monitor for breathing problems.

The smoke was thick enough that it caused temperatures to decline. Outdoor activities were cancelled and some hospital emergency departments noted an increase in patients struggling with respiratory problems.

Overnight on Tuesday, the air began to clear.

In most communities, the air quality health index is expected to remain around 2 or 3 on Wednesday and Thursday, which is considered the range for low risk.

People living in the northern communities still affected by the wildfire smoke are asked to avoid their exposure to the smoke.

People may experience increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath, Environment Canada warns. Children, seniors, and those with cardiovascular or lung disease are especially at risk.

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