160 active wildfires reported in Saskatchewan, most of the province remains on heat warning, air quality advisories
According to the Saskatchewan Public Agency (SPA) website, there were 160 active wildfires in Saskatchewan as of Sunday morning, almost all north of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
SPA update says 10 of the fires are contained, 31 are not contained, 24 are active and near the property and 95 are under assessment.
Almost the entire province continues to be under heat warning or air quality advisory as well – with a few places in the southwest under both.
Erin Kuan, president and CEO of the Lung Association of Saskatchewan, said people need to take these warnings seriously for their own well-being.
“There is nothing more important than the ability to breathe,” she told CBC Radio. The morning edition Friday.
She said people subject to air quality advisories should limit the time they spend outdoors, especially children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with ailments. pre-existing conditions like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – often called COPD.
People should also limit the amount of brisk exercise they do outdoors.
“Rigorous exercise can actually increase the amount of oxygen you need up to 20 times, and of course when the air quality is not good we want to limit the amount of pollutants we bring in. in our lungs, ”she said. .
Exposure to smoky air can lead to symptoms such as irritated eyes, runny nose, headaches, throat irritation, or worsening daily allergies for most people, according to Kuan.
Warning for people with pre-existing conditions
However, those with pre-existing conditions may experience more severe symptoms like swollen airways and increased mucus production.
“You just want to make sure you have your meds on hand,” she said.
“For people who regularly take medication to manage chronic disease, increasing their control or relief medication during this wildfire season is a great idea. “
Kuan said it’s also important to make sure air conditioners – whether inside a house or a vehicle – recycle indoor air instead of bringing outside air indoors.
She also said that masks that many people have become accustomed to wearing due to COVID-19 – like medical or cloth masks – do not prevent smoke inhalation because they do not provide a seal around the nose. or mouth.
“I think the best advice we can give people is to limit [the] the time you spend outdoors, don’t go outside if you don’t have to and, if you do, limit that time, limit the intensity and try to find good indoor air quality options . “
For people who don’t have access to air conditioning, Kuan recommended going to places like public libraries, community centers, and shopping malls to get a rest from the smoky air.
Evacuated from northeast Saskatchewan. be housed at the U of R
About 300 people evacuated from the northeastern Saskatchewan wildfires will remain at the University of Regina until they can safely return home, according to an email the university sent to students and the staff Friday.
The first group of evacuees – from the Cree Nation of Shoal Lake – was due to arrive on Friday and is expected to arrive within the next few days.
The email says many of the evacuees are families with young children.
“In order to protect our guests – who come from a more isolated bubble – and our community on campus, the University’s COVID-19 protocols will continue to be in place, including the requirement to wear masks in indoor, public and shared spaces, “the email said.
“The number of hand disinfection stations will be increased and improved cleaning protocols will be in place. Physical distancing will be encouraged to continue for the mutual protection of all.”
The email says some details are still being worked out, but there should be minimal disruption to campus services.
The university is also exploring options for organized activities and making facilities available to evacuees, depending on the length of their stay.
The number of wildfires in 2021 in Saskatchewan has already exceeded the five-year average of more than 200 fires.
There have been 418 fires so far this year, according to the SPA. The five-year average is 212.