Thick smoke, poor air quality cancel outdoor events in Edmonton

A thick layer of haze and smoke has been blanketing Edmonton for days, as wildfire smoke from B.C., Saskatchewan and the U.S. continues to filter into the province.

As of 9 a.m. on Monday, the Air Quality Health Index placed Edmonton at a level 7, putting the city in the "high risk" category. However, the city is expected to increase to a level 9 later in the day.

“It clearly is smoky right from the surface to the high levels and really it’s sort of imported smoke,” David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, said.

Phillips explained the winds are moving from east to west and blowing smoke into the province.

“Alberta is like the exhaust pipe for North America, all of peoples crud is being exhausted into the province of Alberta.”

He said the number of wildfires in Alberta itself is down compared to the 10-year average. 

Since air quality statements remain in place for most of the region, it's prompted closures of a number of outdoor facilities including all city-run outdoor pools, spray parks and green shack programs. 

The YWCA has also cancelled all of its programs for Monday due to wildfire smoke creating poor air quality for campers.

In the tweet it said while the news was disappointing, “the health and safety of our campers is paramount.”

NOTICE: @yowochas programs are CANCELLED for Monday, July 19 due to wildfire smoke creating poor air quality. Those with registered children have received emails with full info. Disappointing news, but the health & safety of our campers is paramount. Updates as conditions evolve.

— YWCA Edmonton (@YWCAEdmonton) July 18, 2021

On Monday, Snow Valley announced reduced hours for the day. The Aerial Park and Whitemud Creek Mining Co. will both close at 1 p.m. before air quality worsens.

Due to the smoke we will be running reduced hours today (Monday).

The Aerial Park and Whitemud Creek Mining Co. will both close at 1:00p.

See you later this week!

— Snow Valley (@SnowValleySki) July 19, 2021

If possible consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous activities to a later date, especially if you have asthma or COPD, as current conditions can worsen those symptoms.

“It's really time to take a break from being outdoors,” Helene Hamilton, a public education officer for Alberta Health Services EMS, said.

“Trying to again get into an area where the air is filtered so that you are not inhaling the particulates.”

Phillips told CTV News Edmonton this is something that’s not going away even if conditions start to improve.

“We know the forests are tinder boxes they’re just a spark away from igniting again,” he said.

“Humans are as powerful as nature in creating the kinds of extremes we’re seeing on planet earth.”

Get used to the smoke. It'll vary in intensity...but it's not going away any time soon. Should be more "hazy" than "smoky" in #yeg the next few days & temps are staying "cool". Here's your Monday WxBlog: #yegwx

— Josh Classen (@joshclassenCTV) July 19, 2021

Under the current conditions, AHS recommends the following:

  • Closing windows and doors, including attached garage doors;
  • Turning down the furnace thermostats and fans to a minimum setting;
  • If you have an air conditioner, keeping the fresh air intake closed;
  • Closing all floor registers and fire place dampers;
  • Running car fans on re-circulate to avoid drawing in outdoor air; and
  • Not smoking tobacco and avoiding using backyard fire pits.

Anyone experiencing symptoms due to smoke can call Health Link at 811.

It’s advised to check schedules before heading to any planned outdoor activities to see if hours have been reduced or if they’ve been cancelled.

“Smoke can have a local effect,” Phillips added.

“It can effect temperature, air quality, and can create its own weather.”