Saskatchewan Struggles with Wildfire Smoke: Regina Experiences Alarming Air Quality Deterioration

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Battling reduced visibility and compromised air quality, Regina and the larger part of southern Saskatchewan are grappling with the impacts of wildfire smoke. Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), in response to this environmental crisis, has released special alerts concerning air quality for the majority of the province, barring the far southwestern and south-central regions.

By 5:30 p.m. this past Sunday, the air quality health index (AQHI) ratings were nothing short of alarming. Regina, Estevan, and Swift Current recorded figures of eight, seven, and three respectively. In a more alarming revelation, some provincial regions registered an AQHI of 10+ or “very high risk” earlier in the day.

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Wildfire smoke concentrations can undergo drastic fluctuations over small distances and can change remarkably within mere hours, a phenomenon prominently reflected in ECCC’s statement for the City of Regina. The ever-present threat of wildfire smoke isn’t selective in its victims, being detrimental to the health of everyone susceptible, irrespective of the concentration.

The weather agency advises vigilant management of exposure, particularly for those positioned at a heightened risk, including older adults, children, people who are pregnant, and those suffering from lung or heart diseases. Such individuals are urged to take frequent breaks from outdoor activities, don a well-fitted mask or respirator when outdoors, and ensure they have an ample supply of necessary medication.

Air conditions, as of now, are predicted to maintain a steady state throughout the day, with a projected drop to a seven Sunday night, and persist at that level through Monday.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders, in a recent social media statement, confirmed that the Labour Day Classic is set to commence at 5 p.m. at Mosaic Stadium as scheduled. The riders, together with the CFL, CFLPA, and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, are keeping a close eye on the air quality conditions using in-stadium instruments, prioritizing safety of the players, coaches, staff, and fans.

Later, at 4:20 p.m., the Roughriders reaffirmed the planned kickoff for 5 p.m., citing strong south winds for significant improvements in air quality levels, which are currently well below the threshold deemed safe for playing football.

This sobering environmental dilemma has only intensified over time, with Victoria Avenue East on Sept. 3, 2023, bearing witness to an AQHI value for the city of Regina that was a staggering 10+ or very high risk.