Calgary air quality expected to worsen overnight as wildfire smoke settles in

All of southern Alberta, including Calgary, was under a special air quality statement on Saturday, as smoke from western U.S. wildfires settled in.

“Smoky conditions and deteriorating air quality continues across southern Alberta this evening. As a weather system moves through the area tonight, conditions are forecast to improve on Sunday,” reads a statement from Environment and Climate Change Canada.

“Individuals may experience symptoms such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath. Children, seniors, and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk.”

The air quality in Calgary was rated a 4 as of Saturday afternoon, or moderate risk on the Air Quality Health Index scale. That number was expected to increase to a 7, or high risk, overnight, before decreasing to a 2, low risk, late Sunday morning. 

The AQHI rates the potential risk level from poor air conditions on a 1-10 scale.

At moderate risk, members of the general population should modify or reschedule outdoor activities if they experience symptoms like coughing or throat irritation. People who are more vulnerable to the impacts of air pollution, including children and seniors, should exercise more caution.

This week, firefighters from Alberta headed south to help fight the fires devastating Oregon.

At least 36 people have died, more than 1,100 homes have been destroyed and almost five million acres have been burned by fires in California, Washington and Oregon.

Smoke from the fires has blown as far northeast as Ottawa. 

Alberta Health Services website suggests people should close outside windows and doors, avoid running air conditioners, and not using wood burning fireplaces while smoke advisories are in effect.

If you must drive somewhere, keep windows and vents closed and run car fans on recirculate, AHS said. It’s also best to reduce levels of physical activity to decrease inhalation of pollutants.

An up-to-date list of advisories is available on Environment Canada’s website.

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