June 7, 2023: Smoke from intense wildfires in Quebec has spread to a significant portion of Ontario, leading to concerns about air quality. Environment Canada has issued particular air quality statements for most of southern Ontario, excluding some areas in the southwest. The agency warns that the smoke plumes from the Quebec forest fires may result in poor air quality throughout the week.
Environment Canada emphasizes the fluctuating nature of air quality and visibility due to wildfire smoke. The agency also highlights that even low concentrations of wildfire smoke can harm everyone’s health, particularly those with lung disease, heart disease, the elderly, children, pregnant individuals, and outdoor workers.
Meteorologist Anthony Farnell from Global News explains that most of the smoke affecting southern and eastern Ontario originates from the fires in Quebec. What sets this event apart is the smoke’s lower level in the atmosphere, which raises concerns for everyone, not just those with respiratory issues.
Farnell notes that areas like the Ottawa Valley and parts of the Greater Toronto Area are experiencing some of the poorest air quality in North America. The smoke is expected to persist intermittently for the next few days.
Dry conditions and warm temperatures across many of Canada in the middle of spring have fueled these fires. Farnell explains that different sources have contributed to the fires across the country, and the current atmospheric conditions are trapping the smoke, funneling it southward.
Environment Canada advises the public to limit outdoor activities if experiencing symptoms related to the smoke, seek medical attention if necessary, stay indoors if feeling unwell, use HEPA air purifiers inside homes, and wear properly fitted respirator masks when spending time outdoors to protect against fine particles.
Officials have warned that Canada could face a record level of land burnt due to an unprecedented wildfire season. Nine provinces and territories are battling fires, resulting in over 100,000 people being evacuated since early May. Quebec alone has seen 164 wildfires, with approximately 114 out of control. Smog warnings have been issued by Environment Canada for large parts of Quebec, including Montreal and Quebec City, due to the fires.