Health official: stay out of heavy smoke

A smoky haze lingered over Prince Albert Wednesday as smoke from northern wildfires blew into town. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

People with health conditions should take precautions should heavy smoke become a problem, Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer has said.

Dr. Saqib Shahab made his comments during a conference call held to update media on wildfires burning in the province’s north Wednesday.

People with medical conditions were evacuated from Pelican Narrows Tuesday as smoke from nearby out of control wildfires blanketed the area. Members of the general public began voluntary evacuations Wednesday.

“For communities directly impacted by fire, it is important to follow local direction from the chief, tribal council and health officials,” Shahab said.

“That may include sheltering in place, or (heading to) facilities where people can congregate where there may be tools that can be used to clean the indoor air.”

The province said during the same call that air scrubbers were in place in certain Pelican Narrows facilities to create places where people could breathe easy.

Shahab also had comments for the rest of the province, as smoke from the northern wildfires caused air quality warnings in other communities, including Prince Albert, Wednesday.

“With the winds changing directions, you can expect to see periods of heavy smoke locally. It’s important for us to be aware of that,” he said.

“If there’s heavy smoke visible outside, especially if you have underlying health conditions such as chronic lung disease, heart disease or sensitivities to smoke, it is important to stay indoors as much as possible.”

While it may get hot indoors, it’s important not to open the windows in order to keep smoke out, Shahab said. Instead, use a fan to get some air moving and keep yourself cool.

If you’re healthy, and the smoke isn’t too heavy, there should be no issues going about your daily activities. But even if you are healthy, heavy smoke can cause problems.

“You should avoid strenuous outdoor activity, and minimize heavy outdoor activity during that period of time,” Shahab said.

“If you have to be out and about, come indoors for frequent breaks. It’s important to be hydrated as well.”

While smoke from the northern wildfires is expected to clear fro P.A. overnight, smoke from B.C. fires will still be lingering, and people travelling in the Saskatchewan’s north will see heavier smoke conditions.