Poor air quality is affecting people who work outdoors.
Mike Kozlowski, owner of Steel Pony Farm, just south of Red Deer, was wearing a white breathing mask over his nose and mouth while working in the fields Friday.
“I don’t know much about the long-term or short-term safety risks, but we’re feeling it. But we can’t really just take a day off because it’s smoky. There’s a lot we need to do,” he said.
“We were outdoors all day yesterday and my lungs feel a little irritated, but it’s not terrible yet. Some of my employees were saying their eyes are feeling irritated.”
Air quality reached a high risk of 10-plus on a scale of 10 Friday morning.
If the smoky conditions stick around, “it will really affect farmers in the area,” said Kozlowski.
“I think already, this is going to affect the plants’ ability to photosynthesize, because we need that full spectrum of sunlight for plants to really grow.
“When plants are lacking the amount of sunlight they need, they stretch up and get tall to try to get to the source. That would create these leggier plants that are reaching up as opposed to filling out, which could have a negative impact,” he said.
Gary Gies, Red Deer Construction Association executive director, said the building industry is affected by the air quality as well.
“This impacts us considerably. Construction season is not very long in our environment here. Whether it’s air quality, long droughts of rain, or even snow, any of the days that affect our construction season puts a massive impact on not only the companies, but also the projects, the community and access around town,” said Gies.
Air quality conditions could clear up very quickly with the right wind, he added.
Each company within the association monitors air quality and would decide if it’s safe for employees to work outdoors, Gies said.
“All of our companies are very focused on the safety and well-being of employees,” he said.
“I know we would take whatever precautions possible for people working outside to have that safety in place.”