Do Ontarians need to be worried about Prairie forest fires?

smokey sunset over lake Photo by Kevin Williams/Facebook

If you live in Ontario and have been enjoying the picturesque hazy sunsets over the past week, we regret to inform you that ‘smoky’ might be a better descriptor for these unique end-of-day views. 

The smoky skies noticeable in parts of Ontario are actually the result of forest fires raging in the Prairies over the past few weeks. 

“At the moment, northwestern Ontario may see a brief deterioration of air quality,” says Trudy Kidd, operation meteorologist at Environment Canada.

Depending on airflow, it takes about two to three days for smoke to travel from the Prairies to Ontario and manifest in the form of hazy skies like the ones we’ve been seeing, says Kidd. “At times, it reaches the ground and affects air quality in the form of small particulate matter.”

People are encouraged to take precautions when the particulate matter from the smoke reaches ground level. Thunder Bay residents, for example, have received a warning from the WeatherCAN app stating that “wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone’s health, even at low concentrations” and to “try to reduce your exposure if wildfire smoke mixes down to the surface.”

Currently, the situation remains precarious in parts of northwestern Ontario, but for the moment, folks in southern Ontario do not need to worry about air quality. Of course, those who are at a higher health risk, such as seniors, pregnant people, infants and young children, people who work outdoors, and people with an existing illness or chronic health condition (cancer, diabetes, lung or heart conditions), should exercise a higher level of caution if needed. 

As fire season progresses, Ontarians, and Canadians in general, should stay alert for air quality warnings from reliable sources like the Ontario Storm Prediction Centre. 

“We’re now in forest fire season, and forest fires generate smoke from time to time that affects Ontarians. We should be prepared and remember to follow the necessary precautions to reduce the health impacts,” says Kidd. “We have an excellent resource for air quality information, including the symptoms of smoke exposure and how to protect your health during a wildfire.”

Want to know how to keep your cottage safe from wildfires? We’ve got a few tips.

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