The hazy skies and smell of burning from forest fires in northeastern Ontario and Quebec is creating poor air quality in the region, and has led some organizations to make alternative plans and caused some residents to phone 911.

In Guelph, the fire department posted on social media that a number of people are calling 911 about the smoke, believing there was a fire somewhere close by.

“We would like to advise residents that the smoke/haze may be a result of the wildland fires in Quebec and northern Ontario,” said the tweet.

“Please only call 911 if there is an emergency.”

Environment Canada has issued a special air quality statement which covers most of southern Ontario. It says the high pollution levels are expected last into the weekend.

Wednesday morning, Environment Canada listed the Air Quality Index (AQI) at 4, which is the moderate risk, and by the noon hour it reached 6. While still in the moderate risk level, it may move into a higher level for the rest of the week.

Those numbers are nothing compared to Ottawa where the AQI is 10. People there are walking through a fog-like haze covering the city because of the fires in Quebec.

School board reschedules outdoor activities

In Waterloo region, the deteriorating air quality has prompted the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) to reschedule strenuous outdoor activities and spring camps.

The board consulted with the Region of Waterloo Public Health on the matter and they said in a release that students will be allowed to head outside for recess, but are advised to avoid any exhausting play.

In the release, the WRDSB also asked schools to keep doors and windows closed and continue running HEPA units.

Some family-friendly businesses are responding to the alert. Play-A-Latte Cafe is offering a discount on play dates until June 17. The company says it wants to give families an indoor play option while the smokey air covers the region.

There may be a growing list of cancellations that CBC K-W is unaware of. If you know of one please contact us by email at [email protected].

‘It’s something our body is feeling’

That campfire smell that’s coming from a distant fire can cause a number of mild or more serious symptoms.

Jeff Brook, an air quality expert and associate professor at the University of Toronto told The Morning Edition with Craig Norris: “everybody is breathing it in and it’s something our body is feeling.”

“We might not know it if we’re a healthy person,” said Brook.

“If you’re suffering from respiratory conditions like asthma or COPD, your symptoms are usually telling you that something is not right in the air. You may need to use more of your medication and moderate the situation carefully.”

Brook says the long term impact from breathing in the fire smoke will see more people suffering from respiratory conditions. 

Wildfire smoke exposure, according to Health Canada will cause mild symptoms like headaches, a mild cough, a runny nose, the production of phlegm and your eyes, nose and throat may be feeling scratchy.

More serious symptoms include dizziness, chest pains, severe cough shortness of breath, wheezing and heart palpitations.

If short of breath, stop outdoor activities

During these days of poor air quality, Environment Canada recommends the following:

  • If you or someone in your care experiences shortness of breath, wheezing, severe coughing, dizziness or chest pains, stop outdoor activities and contact your health care provider.
  • If you are feeling unwell and experiencing symptoms, stay inside.
  • Keep your indoor air clean.
  • Keep your doors and windows closed if the temperature in your home is comfortable.
  • Take a break from the smoke by temporarily relocating or finding a place in your community with clean, cool air such as a library, shopping mall or community centre.
  • If you must spend time outdoors, a well-fitted respirator-type mask that does not allow air to pass through small openings between the mask and your face can help reduce your exposure to fine particles in smoke.
  • Be sure to check on people in your care and those who may be more susceptible to smoke.
  • Evacuate if told to do so.
  • Review your wildfire smoke plan and make sure you have enough medical supplies if the smoke continues to be an issue.



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