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Calgary suffering from wildfire smoke as air quality levels worsen

Last Updated Jul 18, 2021 at 11:28 am MDT

Wildfire smoke envelops Calgary's downtown core. Friday, May 31st, 2019. (PHOTO: Tom Ross, 660 NEWS)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — It looks like this wildfire smoke from British Columbia and Saskatchewan that continues to blanket Calgary and most of Alberta will be here for the long haul.

Environment Canada rates the air quality in Calgary as a 10 on the Air Quality Health Index scale, which is considered high risk. This means anybody who goes outdoors could experience symptoms of coughing and throat irritation.

Meteorologist Michael Kuss says not to expect conditions to improve right now.

“We’ve seen haze in the area over the last few days, but this is the first time that smoke filtered right down to the surface, decreasing the air quality significantly,” Kuss said.

Environment and Climate Change Canada meteorologist Justin Shelley says we are unfortunately somewhat surrounded by wildfires.

“It appears that this bout of smoke is coming in from the east, so from the Saskatchewan fires, and that’s probably going to be the case for the next several days until we can get a change in the wind direction at the lower levels to sort of push this smoke out,” Shelley said.

If you are planning on going out Shelley says to stay updated.

“So there might be some brief improvement hour to hour, but those can quickly turn back the other way,” he said, adding you can keep an eye on the air quality forecast online or through your smartphone.

“We have seen values up in the high to very high range, which would be seven or above, or in some cases 10 or above,” he said.

“We are forecasting those values to possibly exceed 10 both today and tonight.”

With the amount of smoke coming into the city, Alberta Health Services says it is best to avoid it as much as you can.

Helene Hamilton with AHS says if you are in your car you can try and reduce the amount of smoke you’re breathing in.

“If you’re in your vehicle, putting the air onto recirculate rather than having the outside air coming into your vehicle, that will help reduce the amount of smoke and particulate inside your vehicle as you’re driving,” Hamilton said.

“We do recommend if you’re able to, to keep your windows closed at home and in your vehicle. If you can avoid strenuous outdoor activities that would definitely be something to put off until the air quality improves,” she added.

Kuss does not expect us to see any dramatic improvement, but we could at least see smoke ‘on and off’ in the area as the fires continue to burn out of control in B.C.

Fires south of the border down in Washington State also have the potential to continue to affect us as well over the next couple of weeks.

Alberta Health Services recommends keeping your home and car windows closed and if you have underlying conditions or not and are experiencing symptoms, call 8-1-1.