News: Wildfires spark E-town air alert

Published in the May 14th issue of The Edmonton Sun. News

Wildfires spark E-town air alert

Edmonton Sun

Edmontonians may not be breathing easy, as smoke from a wildfire wafts over the city.

Alberta Health Services has issued an air-quality warning for Edmonton and surrounding areas, such as Sherwood Park and Fort Saskatchewan.

“Get inside, stay inside and hopefully the wind will change,” said Dr. Marcia Johnson, acting medical officer of health for Alberta Health Services.

People with respiratory problems, heart or lung conditions, smokers or children who are active outdoors are advised to stay indoors and keep windows shut, but the warning extends to those in good health as well.

“Even in normal people you can feel an irritated throat, you can start to cough, you can just feel very uncomfortable under smoky conditions,” said Johnson.

An air-quality advisory was already issued for Redwater and surrounding areas Thursday night. Giant plumes of smoke have been billowing off the wildfire near the tiny town of Opal, about 60 km north of Edmonton in Thorhild County. The blaze has been raging out of control since Wednesday afternoon.

One home and surrounding buildings have already been consumed by the fire, but so far there have been no injuries, as residents remain on alert.

State of emergency

The province’s wildfire fighting force has dispatched 60 firefighters, four helicopters and numerous water bombers to the area that is under a state of emergency.

An additional three helicopters, three dozers and 100 crew members joined the fight Friday to contain the fire.

With the winds shifting Friday, a spokeswoman for the County of Thorhild hoped crews would be able to gain control of the fire that has grown to about 2,200 hectares.

“It is in our favour,” said Candace Revega, with the County of Thorhild.

A number of concerned Edmontonians spotting smoke in their communities have also been calling 911.

Edmonton Fire Rescue Services says citizens should be aware that the main source of the billowing smoke is from the wildfire burning outside the city.

“We want citizens to always know that 911 is the best number to call if they think there is an emergency, but smoke related to those calls were because of fires happening outside the city,” said a spokesman with Fire Rescue Services.

Thorhild County issued a fire ban Thursday, while a full fire ban was declared for all areas of Strathcona County Friday morning. A fire advisory has also been issued for Sturgeon County.

The air-quality advisory is in effect until the wildfire has been contained, but warm, dry weather and shifting winds forecast over the next few days are expected to make containing the wildfire difficult.

– With files from Candice Ward

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