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Extremely poor air quality expected as wildfire smoke sweeps across Manitoba

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Wildfire smoke sweeping across the prairies is expected to cause 'extremely poor' air quality in parts of central and southern Manitoba including Winnipeg Wednesday.

In a special air quality statement, Environment Canada and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) said a cold front in Manitoba is bringing smoke from wildfires in northern Saskatchewan.

The smoke is expected to hit the Red River Valley around noon today, causing 'extremely poor air quality and reduced visibility.'

"Air quality and visibility due to wildfire smoke can fluctuate over short distances and can vary considerably from hour to hour," the statement reads. "That being said, as the front carrying the plume of smoke initially approaches, expect conditions to swiftly deteriorate."

ECCC said conditions should improve throughout southern Manitoba by Thursday as the smoke will move into the United States.

SMOKY CONDITIONS A DOUBLE WHAMMY AS ALLERGY SEASON BEGINS: LUNG ASSOCIATION

Neil Johnston, president and CEO of the Manitoba Lung Association, said for those living with lung health issues this smoky weather is a major concern. He said even for healthy people, the smoke can have an impact if they are outside for long periods of time.

"Right now Winnipeg actually is considered to be average or adequate air quality. Most of the smoke is fairly high so we are seeing it but we are not really being affected by it to the extent that we could be if there is a wind change and we get the heavy smoke," he said, adding Winnipeggers need to be prepared.

The Manitoba Lung Association recommends restricting heavy outdoor exercise while these conditions last. Johnston said face masks, especially N-95 masks, can help.

"If you have to be outside, then certainly an N-95 mask that's well-fitting will provide a degree of protection," he said.

For some, this comes as allergy season is starting up.

"So people who have pollen sensitivities will be experiencing a double whammy of those issues – allergies on top of smoke irritation," he said.

ECCC says people with lung disease including asthma and heart disease are at higher risk, along with older adults, younger children and pregnant people. ECCC suggests keeping doors and windows closed and set the air conditioning fan to recirculate the air constantly.

More information on precautions you can take can be found online

-with files from CTV's Michelle Gerwing

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