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Northern health unit issues warnings as wildfire smoke causes poor air quality

Wildfire smoke from forest fires in northern Ontario and Quebec is creating hazy and smoky conditions blanketing cities across Ontario.

Environment Canada issued a special air quality statement Wednesday for much of the northeast.

Public health officials warn that the smoke can be dangerous, with the fires creating high concentrations of air pollution.

Environment Canada said with the current weather system in Ontario, the air mass is stagnant. With high pressure over Lake Superior and winds, wildfire smoke with poor air quality is expected to persist into the weekend.

“The ridge is going to stay in place today into the weekend but I’m seeing some weather models nod towards a change in weather patterns into this weekend,” said Environment Canada warning preparedness meteorologist Trudy Kidd.

“We’re expecting a low pressure system to creep into southwestern Ontario and with that brings cleaner air.”

Ontario’s Air Quality Health Index reports North Bay, Sudbury, Parry Sound and Sault Ste. Marie’s air quality is expected to be moderate to very poor Thursday.

“Wildfire smoke can fluctuate over short distances and from hour to hour,” said Kidd.

“If you're noticing the air quality is getting worse, go inside and close your windows."

Wildfire smoke from forest fires in northern Ontario and Quebec is creating hazy and smoky conditions blanketing cities across Ontario. (Supplied)

As of Wednesday morning, the number of active forest fires in northern Ontario reached 54 with 10 new wildfires Tuesday. Thirty of those active fires are not under control, an increase of seven from Tuesday.

The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit is reminding people to take precautions as air pollution can severely affect people with lung or heart disease.

“We recommend people check the Air Quality Health Index through the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks website, or on your local radio or TV stations, to be aware of the degree of risk,” said Robert A-Muhong, the health unit’s manager of environmental health.

A-Muhong said poor air quality can also affect children, seniors and pregnant people.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry said smoke drift is travelling as far as north of Timmins, down through Sudbury and past Parry Sound.

"See smoke and are unsure if you should call it in? Generally, if you see a column of smoke, give us a call at 310-FIRE (3473) if you’re located north of the French and Mattawa Rivers (or 911 if you’re south of these rivers),” the MNRF said.

Otherwise, the agency encourages people to check its website to determine if what you’re seeing is drifting heavy smoke. Top Stories

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