Eerie wildfire haze continues to cloak Edmonton

An eerily thick haze blanketing Edmonton dissipated somewhat overnight but there little relief in the forecast as a plume of smoke from wildfires burning in B.C. continues to blanket Alberta.

While some northern areas of the province had a momentary reprieve overnight Wednesday, the smoke is expected to move back into northwestern Alberta Thursday morning and then spread eastward in the afternoon and evening. 

A revised special air quality issued by Environment Canada Thursday morning covers almost every region in the province.

It warns that smoke conditions can change quickly, hour-by-hour,and the haze will stick around for the week, as smoke from an estimated 600 wildfires in B.C. wafts over the Prairies.

As of Thursday morning, the air quality health index for Edmonton indicated there was a moderate risk of air pollution. The forecast for the city included a mix of sun and cloud, a high of 25 C and “widespread smoke.”


The smoke cloaked Edmonton like a thick fog Wednesday, choking out the sun and casting a strange, dystopian hue over the city. Commuters awoke up to an insipid, orange sunrise.

Street lights had not clicked off as of 8 a.m. Wednesday and drivers used their headlights on the way to work amid an acrid smell.

The sky then turned a dark and dirty-brown colour and the sun, into what appeared to a blazing red orb from the smoke and particulates.

Air quality in the city remained extremely poor throughout the day.


“What Alberta is seeing right now is the effects of wildfires burning in central British Columbia,” said Dr. Chris Sikora, medical officer of health for Alberta Health Services.

“That smoke is passing over the mountains and into Alberta and causing really adverse and poor air quality across much of the province.”

The conditions prompted the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos to move their afternoon practice indoors.  It also posed a challenge for searchers who were out looking for the pilot of a light plane that went missing Sunday, after taking off from a small airport in Edson. Some of the planes involved in the search were unable to fly due to the hazy skies.

Similar conditions prevailed in Calgary, where trying to make out the city’s skyline from any distance proved difficult early in the day.

Both Alberta Health Services and Environment Canada said people can experience increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath. Children, seniors and those with cardiovascular or lung disease are especially at risk.

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