Smoky conditions from wildfires in portions of Manitoba and Alberta have led to special air quality warnings from Environment Canada.
As of late last week, 25 active wildfires burned across Manitoba, with at least seven out of control, according to the province’s daily fire updates. The majority of 197 wildfires in Manitoba this year have either been caused by lightning or negligence from individuals.
Some 64 firefighters from Saskatchewan and Quebec have been deployed to the eastern region of the province and are assisting on priority fires. Provincial fire crews continue to focus their efforts on fires near the communities of Little Grand Rapids and Red Sucker Lake.
In addition to reporting decreased visibility, some Manitoba residents in affected areas have experienced coughing, throat irritation, headaches and shortness of breath in response to the smoke-filled air.
“Smoke is made up of a number of components,” states Manitoba’s Environmental Health Team. “The unhealthiest material in wildland fire smoke is the small particles (particulates). They may make it harder to breathe or make you cough. These small particles can also make existing heart and lung conditions worse.”
As July kicked off, wildfire evacuations in coordination with the Red Cross began for some 200 residents of Manitoba’s Little Grand Rapids First Nation and Pauingassi First Nation. Many of the evacuees experienced the same challenges during spring wildfires in 2018. The Manitoba government, at the request of the Ontario government, also supported the evacuation of residents from Pikangikum First Nation in Ontario due to wildfires there.
In late 2018, Manitoba entered into an agreement with Babcock Canada Inc. to provide services for the suppression of wildfires, including the use of water bombers.
In Alberta, Environment Canada issued a high-level air quality warning on July 15 for the Rainbow Lake – Fort Vermilion areas. Last month, some 9,000 people in nearby Mackenzie County in northern Alberta were evacuated from their homes in the face of aggressive and growing wildfires. More than 700 residents from the Paddle Prairie Métis Settlement had also been evacuated for a time.
There are currently 24 wildfires burning in Alberta, but just one is considered to be “out of control”, according to provincial officials.