Environment Canada has issued an air quality advisory for many northern communities in the Kenora district. Residents in the affected areas are warned of high levels of air pollution from nearby forest fires.

The Red Lake, Perrault Falls, Lac Seul, Ear Falls, Woodland Caribou Park, Pickle Lake, Cat Lake, Summer Beaver, Wunnummin Lake, Kingfisher Lake, Pikangikum, Poplar Hill, MacDowell, Sandy Lake, Weagamow Lake and Deer Lake areas are under the advisory.

Environment Canada says that the smoke is causing poor air quality and reduced visibility, for atleast today and tonight. They add that individuals may experience symptoms such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath. Children, seniors, and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk.

“The forest fires are producing a large amount of smoke, and that’s a hazard for a lot of people,” says Environment Canada Meteorologist Gerald Cheng. “There will be difficulty breathing with the fumes and pollution. We want people, especially with existing cardiovascular or lung disease, to take it easy. Stay indoors if possible. It can be very difficult to breath.”

Cheng adds that the air quality advisory will remain in place until the levels of pollution lower in the affected areas, and he hopes that the region sees rain as soon as possible.

“Unfortunately we really need a good soaking for these fires to go out. The province is making good efforts with that, but the weather needs to cooperate. It’s warm. It’s dry. We really need a good thunderstorm and a heavy downpour. There’s also concern about lightning with any storms, and that it may start more fires in the area.”

Environment Canada adds that in general, wearing a mask is not the best way to protect your health during a smoke event. In fact, masks may lead to a false sense of security, which may encourage increased physical activity and time spent outdoors, meaning increased exposure to smoke. They can also make breathing more difficult.

The Aviation, Forest Fires and Emergency Services branch of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry says that there are currently 96 active forest fires in the region, 79 of which are under observation, being held or under control.

The forest fire hazard is high across most of the region, with pockets of extreme hazard in the Red Lake and district, and the far north.

For more information:
Help from the west for regional fire
Smoke near Redditt, Minaki

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