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Smoky air, ash shrouds Edmonton area; health advisory for those with health issues

EDMONTON - Alberta's capital city is under a health advisory due to smoky, hazy air from hundreds of forest fires.

Those fires are burning in western Alberta, British Columbia and Northwest Territories.

Alberta Health Services recommends anyone with existing health issues stay indoors and avoid strenuous activity.

Dr. Chris Sikora, medical officer of health for the Edmonton zone, says the air quality health index has climbed to seven, which is in the high range.

Sikora says there is even ash blowing in some parts of Edmonton.

He says the smoke is expected to stay in the area for the next 24 hours or even longer.

"The risk component of most concern would be the fine particulate matter. We may be seeing a little bit of ash blowing in but it's really that fine particulate matter that can get into the lungs that is of most concern," Sikora said Wednesday.

People farther north in Yellowknife are facing the same smoky conditions. Environment Canada issued a high health risk warning for the Northwest Territories city and surrounding area.

There are currently about 160 fires burning throughout the N.W.T.

Bill Mawdsley, director of forest fire management with the N.W.T. Department of the Environment, says the fires are not threatening any people or homes and there are no plans for evacuations.

In northwest Alberta, a forest fire that has crossed from British Columbia has resulted in the evacuation of Nose Creek, a remote settlement north of Grande Cache with a population of 12, and some work camps.

All agencies say that travel in the area should be avoided and backcountry travellers in the area should leave.

ConocoPhillips spokesman Rob Evans said two gas plants south of Grande Prairie have been evacuated because of nearby wildfires.

About six people work at the facilities, he said. The impact on production is expected to be minimal.

There are also forest fires burning in Banff National Park that aren't threatening any communities, but it has been affecting traffic on Highway 93. Also known as the Icefields Parkway, the road is the main link between Banff and Jasper and a popular route with tourists this time of year.

— With files from CHED

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