The air quality in southeast Saskatchewan is expected to deteriorate in the coming days, thanks to the smoke generated by the wildfires in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Environment and Climate Change Canada issued an advisory Tuesday afternoon for Weyburn and the surrounding area about the air quality, as a cold front is expected to move through, concentrating the smoke from the forest fires. The thick band of smoke is expected to move in Tuesday night and into Wednesday.
In the advisory, Environment Canada explained that wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone, even at low concentrations. With that in mind, people should take action to reduce exposure to wildfire smoke. As well, those with lung disease or heart disease, older adults, children, those who are pregnant, and those who work outdoors are at a higher risk of experiencing negative health effects from the wildfire smoke.
If breathing becomes uncomfortable, or you start to feel unwell, stop or reduce the activity level. If severe symptoms develop, contact your healthcare provider or local health authority. Be sure to check the Air Quality Health Index and monitor symptoms. People do respond differently to smoke, and mild irritation and discomfort are common. Those symptoms usually disappear when the smoke clears. As well, drinking lots of water can help to cope with the smoke.
If the temperature in your home is comfortable, keep windows and doors closed. If there is an HVAC system in the home, use the highest-rated MERV filter for your system, and set the fan to recirculate the air constantly. A portable High-Efficiency Particulate Air cleaner is also useful in these situations.
As the smoke moves into the area, Environment Canada recommends a well-fitted respirator mask for those who must spend time outdoors. These masks, such as an N95 or equivalent respirator, don’t allow air to pass through small openings between the mask and the face, reducing the exposure to fine particles in the smoke. These particles are generally the greatest health risk. The respirators, though, do not reduce any of the gases that may be carried in the wildfire smoke.