September 6, 2017
BY NSN STAFF
Health officials were warning residents to minimize their exposure to forest fire smoke as it began arriving in the district last week as the forest fire total throughout northern and western Canada rose.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry confirmed on Aug. 30 conditions were a result of large fires burning in to the north as well as in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and the United States, causing heavy smoke to drift through Kenora, Fort Frances and Dryden regions.
There were eight new forest fires reported by the late afternoon of Aug. 30 in the Northwest Region and there were four confirmed fires by day’s end on Aug. 29.
There are currently fires burning in conservation reserves in the region. A prescribed burn on three islands in the Trout Lake Conservation Reserve – Namekosipiink (nam-e-kos-i-pink) in the Red Lake District and an island fire managed under the Lac Seul Conservation Reserve in the Sioux Lookout District.
People are advised to stay away from these areas due to possible smoky conditions and fire personnel traffic and risk due to fire activity. For more information for Red Lake call 807-727-2253 and for Sioux Lookout call 807-737-5020.
The forest fire hazard is high to extreme in the north and west sectors of the region and becoming moderate and low in the eastern sectors.
“Forest fire smoke is made up of a mixture of gases and very small particles that can be harmful to your health,” reported the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) last week. “If developing a new or worsening cough, shortness of breath beyond what is usually experienced, chest pains or significant weakness or fatigue, please seek medical care as soon as possible.”
NWHU recommends minimizing exposure individuals at risk such as children, elderly, pregnant women, people with heart or lung conditions, or persons with active and/or physical jobs.
The organization also offered the following these tips to protect you and your family:
- If it looks smoky outside, stay inside as much as possible with your windows and doors closed. If you have room air cleaners with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, turn them on. Keep your activity level low.
- To help keep particle levels lower indoors avoid using items that ‘burn’, such as wood stoves and gas stoves or even candles.
- If you have an air conditioner set it to ‘recirculate’ and keep it running to help filter and cool the air. If it is hot out and you do not have air conditioning, try spending some time in an air conditioned place, such as a mall or library, to cool off.
- Avoid smoking. Smoking puts even more harmful particles in your lungs and also affects the quality of air for people around you.
- If you have asthma, use your medication as prescribed by your doctor. If you are supposed to measure your peak flows, make sure you do so. Call your doctor or nurse if your symptoms worsen.
- If you are in your car or truck, keep the windows closed and put the air system on ‘recirculate’. Smoke levels from forest fires may vary considerably due to fire conditions and wind directions.
People who are at higher risk should consider taking precautions when smoke conditions are light to moderate. This is usually indicated by a smoke odour and haziness or visibility that is less than eight kilometres.
Provincial Resources – here and beyond
There are 111 personnel from Ontario currently in British Columbia providing structural protection, fire investigation, public information and firefighting support. There is also equipment, including ten thousand lengths of hose, pump kits and two structural protection units. Additional firefighting resources from Ontario will be deployed to both British Columbia and Manitoba this week to support firefighting efforts.
Resources from Quebec and the United States are providing support to Ontario. A fire behaviour analyst from Quebec is in the Northwest Region. As part of a Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact (GLFFC) agreement there are 15 firefighters from the states of Michigan and Wisconsin currently assigned to a fire in the northern sector of the Northwest Region.
As part of normal rotation of staff deployed out of province, there will be personnel returning from assignment in British Columbia this week as well as more resources being sent out.