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Air quality worsens in Prince Albert and north due to wildfire smoke

Air quality worsens in Prince Albert and north due to wildfire smoke
View looking north from Wadin Bay along Highway 102 on Sunday, July 11, 2021. Photo by Michael Bramadat-Willcock

Environment Canada issued air quality warnings for nine Saskatchewan regions, including Prince Albert, as forest fires continue to burn in the northern part of the province.

An air quality warning for Prince Albert, 12 nearby rural municipalities, seven nearby First Nations communities, and the District of Lakeland was sent out at 4:21 p.m. on Wednesday.

The warning said northerly winds were responsible for smoke from the fires travelling south into Central Saskatchewan. Environment Canada expects the wind to shift sometime before the end of the day, improving air quality in southern areas, but worsening conditions in the north.

The air quality will be particularly bad in Prince Albert, where Environment Canada anticipates “high risk” smoke conditions for Thursday. At that level, they recommend reducing or rescheduling strenuous outdoor activities, especially for children and the elderly. As of Wednesday night, conditions in Prince Albert and the surrounding area are listed as “moderate risk.”

Wildfire smoke is a constantly-changing mixture of particles and gasses that includes many chemicals harmful to a person’s health. People with lung diseases like asthma and COPD are particularly sensitive to air pollution.

Environment Canada also issued a heat warning for the area at around 3:36 p.m. They expect temperatures to reach 32 C over the next two days, with a cold front pushing southwards into Saskatchewan at the end of the week, followed extreme heat wave in the south and central part of the province after that.

The Wollaston Lake – Collins Bay region, the Southend—Brabant Lake—Kinoosao region, the Cree Lake—Key Lake region, Cluff Lake Mine—La Loche—Clearwater River Provincial Park region, and the Pelican Narrows—Cumberland House—Creighton region also received air quality warnings.

Conditions in Buffalo Narrows are considered “high risk” as of Wednesday. Environment Canada has forecasted “high risk” conditions in the north for the rest of the week, although there will be some relief on Thursday due to the cold front.