Days of poor air quality and hazy skies in Winnipeg have led to an increase in false alarms triggered by smoke in the air as well as a spike in medical calls related to respiratory issues, officials say.
Jay Shaw, assistant chief with the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service said as the air-quality index hit 10 — which is considered extreme — over the weekend and into this week, fire crews knew to expect a busier than normal few days.
“There was a lot of smoke in the air, and that will trigger some of our automatic and commercial fire alarms, as well as our residential alarm system,” Shaw told Global News Winnipeg Morning Thursday.
“This is good — we actually want this — and we’re going to respond fully to all of these alarms and make sure that there is no fire.”
Wildfire smoke and COVID-19
At the same time, Shaw said crews also saw an increase in legitimate medical calls related to the smoke.
“If you have asthma, or other comorbidities or medical conditions, this smoke can be serious,” he said.
“Anecdotally we are hearing that our medical system is seeing more patients because … the effects of smoke, they aggravate other respiratory issues.”
Global News has reached out to the city for data on how many more calls were received while air quality has been low in Winnipeg.
Environment Canada has had Winnipeg and much of the province under a special air quality statement for several days, and Shaw says it’s important everyone — especially those with respiratory issues — take precautions.
For the most part, he says, that means staying indoors as much as possible and not exerting yourself if you do venture outside. Environment Canada also recommends closing windows and turning off air-conditioners and furnaces that may draw low-quality outside air indoors.
Impact of smoky skies
Shaw stresses those with medical conditions like asthma, COPD, or other respiratory issues should seek medical help or call 9-1-1 if the smoke triggers difficulty breathing.
In its latest alert Thursday morning, Environment Canada says the smoke is blowing over the province from forest fires in northwestern Ontario and eastern Manitoba, leading to poor visibility and widespread poor air quality.
Conditions are expected to improve somewhat Thursday in most areas of the province, except for areas closer to the fires east of Lake Winnipeg, Environment Canada said.
More than 200 fires are currently burning in Manitoba and Ontario, officials have said.
There were 130 fires burning in Manitoba alone on Tuesday after weeks of hot, dry weather. About two dozen were considered out of control.
Earlier this week more than 1,000 people were evacuated from four Manitoba First Nations — Pauingassi First Nation, Little Grand Rapids First Nation, Bloodvein First Nation and Berens River First Nation — due to smoke and wildfires.
Manitoba First Nations evacuated due to smoke, wildfires
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