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Wildfire smoke clogs Alberta air

Smoke hangs over Fort McMurray, Alberta
Smoke hangs over Fort McMurray, Alberta

Alexandra Pope, staff writer

May 30, 2011 — Smoke from wildfires in northern Alberta drifts south, prompting air quality advisories.

Hazy sky in Fort McMurray
Hazy sky in Fort McMurray

People as far south as Edmonton woke up to a hazy sky and smoky smell Saturday morning as winds dispersed smoke from several wildfires burning in northern Alberta.

At 7 a.m., the air quality in the capital was rated as “poor.” It improved steadily throughout the day, but several organizations, including Alberta Health Services (AHS), issued advisories warning people with respiratory and other chronic health problems to stay indoors.

Poor air quality has been a persistent problem across northern Alberta for the past week.

In Fort McMurray, where several fires are still active, the air quality rating has cycled between “fair” and “very poor” for days, occasionally improving to “good” as midday winds push the smoke away. However, a visible haze hung over the city. Air quality across the north is expected to continue to be variable, according to AHS.

Fine particulate matter in smoke can be absorbed deep into the lungs and cause health problems or aggravate existing conditions, AHS said.

People with asthma, bronchitis, emphysema or heart problems should monitor their symptoms, stay inside with the windows closed and avoid strenuous physical activity.

So far this season, 527 fires have burned a total of over 390,000 hectares.

Some residents of Slave Lake were finally allowed to return home following this month's devastating wildfire.

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