An early fall is what Albertans need for smoke-free skies, according to Environment Canada.
Smoke has been streaming into Southern and Central Alberta from Washington State and a few fires in Southern British Columbia for about five days and will likely continue for another month as the wait continues for precipitation to douse the flames.
Brian Proctor, warning preparedness meteorologist, said September is generally dry, but seasonal transition could occur to bring about fall precipitation.
“It can happen in September. It more typically happens in October. So what I’m suggesting is we have the potential to be plagued with smoke for much of September,” Proctor said on Friday.
He said by Sunday the Red Deer area should improve due to a cold front off the B.C. coast moving inland and crossing west central Alberta.
But that won’t be enough to solve the problem, he said.
“What really has to happen is fall has to get here for (firefighters) to start to get a handle on things and some decent amount of moisture onto those fires. For that to happen, we have to slot ourselves into the pattern none of us want to talk about at this time of year where we start looking at some rain and potentially some snowfall.”
The air quality health index on Friday was forecast to reach a maximum of eight on a scale of 10 in the Red Deer area.
A score between seven and 10 is considered a high health risk. At 5 p.m. the health risk hit four, or moderate.
Proctor said within the large-scale smoke plumes very strong, localized concentrations can occur.
“There can be variations in smoke concentration just like there can be variations in temperature distribution across a community,” Proctor said.
On Aug. 24, Central Zone of Alberta Health Services issued air quality advisory. Residents were warned that they could experience temporary eye and throat irritation and shortness of breath from prolonged exposure to smoky air.
The very young, very old, or those with pre-existing respiratory or cardiovascular illnesses, such as angina, heart conditions, asthma or emphysema, were at higher risk for complications.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, medical officer of health for AHS Central Zone, said the advisory will remain in effect until air quality improves based on current conditions and the forecast.
During the week Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre emergency department did not see a significant increase in the number of patients with respiratory conditions.
“Our hope is by providing advice we’re preventing serious illness in people who would be the most sensitive to those impacts,” Hinshaw said.
Air quality in many areas of Alberta is updated regularly on the Alberta Environment and Parks at www.airquality.alberta.ca. Air quality information is also available toll-free at 1-877-247-7333.