Edmonton region issues special air quality statement as wildfire smoke clouds sky, no fire restriction in the cards for Edmonton this week

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A special air quality statement has been issued by Environment Canada for Edmonton and surrounding municipalities as a result of wildfire smoke wafting into the region.

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A haze and accompanying smell of smoke drifted over the Edmonton sky early Thursday morning from the wildfires in British Columbia which reduced the air quality.

As of 10 a.m., Edmonton’s air quality health index was at seven, which is considered a high risk, and is projected to increase to eight this afternoon before lessening to six overnight, considered a moderate risk.

Environment Canada is urging residents to take extra precautions and reduce exposure to wildfire smoke which can cause harm. People with heart and lung conditions are most affected by air pollution and residents are urged to reduce or reschedule strenuous outdoor activities.

The air quality statement isn’t the only alert in effect for the Edmonton area as a heat warning remains in effect with daytime temperatures expected to continue to reach around 30 C. The heat and dry conditions have substantially increased the fire risk in Alberta, which has much of the province under some type of fire advisory to reduce the risk. Wildfire danger is marked as very high and even extreme in the west and northeast parts of the province.

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But a fire restriction or ban isn’t in the cards for Edmonton this week as a result of substantial precipitation in the spring, Edmonton Fire Rescue Services spokeswoman Brittany Lewchuk told Postmedia.

“Due to precipitation since spring, a strong green up plus the high levels of humidity, Edmonton is currently at a normal seasonal average for fire risk,” Lewchuk said in a statement. “We closely monitor the Fire Weather Index daily taking into account temperature, humidity and wind conditions.”

As a result of the prolonged heat wave, the Alberta Electric System Operator is asking the province to conserve energy as much as possible between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. when demand is at its peak. A Level 2 energy emergency alert was issued for Wednesday evening due to an unplanned loss in power generation.

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City response

The City of Edmonton’s extreme weather protocol remains active in an effort to support vulnerable people during the heat wave. On Wednesday, five fire hydrants in the city’s core were converted into water bottle filling stations as part of a new pilot project.

The water taps will be available 24-7 until Oct. 31 at Giovanni Caboto Park, Michael Phair Park, Parkdale Square, Butler Memorial Park and outside the Strathcona Farmers’ Market.

“The city looked at several options to increase availability of water to vulnerable people as part of the extreme weather response. Several other Canadian cities, including Calgary, Vancouver and Montreal have adapted fire hydrants as water fountains,” city spokeswoman Carol Hurst said in an email to Postmedia.

In addition to the new pilot program, peace officers continue to carry water bottles for distribution and most city recreation centres and libraries are open during regular operating hours with access to bottled water for those looking for a place to beat the heat.

duscook@postmedia.com

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