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Alberta Forest Fires - Info on Smoke and Air Quality Issues

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Alberta Forest Fires - Info on Smoke and Air Quality Issues

There have been multiple threads on the smoke/air quality, so I wanted to have one central thread to avoid posting in multiple locations.

A little FAQ

There are forest fires burning in BC, AB and the Northwest Territories. The smoke from these fires is presenting issues in BC, AB, SK and MB. Most of the smoke is coming from those fires in BC and NWT, not the fire in Banff National Park/provincial land (Spreading Lake Fire).

These fires are likely to be an issue for the rest of the summer, but no one can predict the intensity of the fires or the long term air quality issues. These vary considerably between locations, and will depend on weather, intensity/control of the fires, wind etc.

The fire at Spreading Creek (Banff NP) is being held. As the area has been long overdue for a natural fire, they are allowing it to burn to use up fuel sources while ensuring that it does not cross roads or threaten buildings.

At the moment, delays or closures of the Icefields Parkway between Saskatchewan River Crossing and Waterfowl Lakes are possible betweeen 2pm and 7am. These delays/closures could last throughout the summer, so it is advised to plan your travel through this area prior to 2pm. Rt. 11 is open, but there is NO stopping along this stretch of road and it is probably best to purchase fuel and supplies other than at Saskatchewan River Crossing.

At the moment, air quality varies widely by location and by day. It is not suggested that you make any changes to your travel plans unless you or someone in your party has serious respiratory issues. Lots of posters have been out hiking, scrambling and climbing, and report haze, but still good views and sunny skies (or rain, depending on the day).

There are no air quality measuring stations in the parks. Parks Canada may release air quality advisories for the park as they feel appropriate. Data from all AQHI stations in the province can be seen here:

http://www.envinfo.gov.ab.ca/AQHI/

Excellent models of surface smoke, which can give you idea where it might be smokier or hazier can be found here:

www.bcairquality.ca/bluesky/west/index.html

San Francisco...
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1. Re: Alberta Forest Fires - Info on Smoke and Air Quality Issues

Good post ksneds! Thanks!

Calgary, Canada
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2. Re: Alberta Forest Fires - Info on Smoke and Air Quality Issues

Daily update from Parks Canada: www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/banff/ne/neuf-news.aspx indicates that they've made progress on the fire in Banff NP and the chance of road closures has dropped quite a bit.

Do note, however, that this may not affect overall smoke issues and the smoke is, in large part, from other fires.

Greater Sydney...
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3. Re: Alberta Forest Fires - Info on Smoke and Air Quality Issues

Keep up the good work, ksneds.

Edited: 19 July 2014, 05:16
Jersey City, New...
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4. Re: Alberta Forest Fires - Info on Smoke and Air Quality Issues

We are planning to be there on August 22nd. I am a bit worried since I have an almost 2 year old travelling with me. Do you think there will be any improvement in fire and its air effects by then? Thanks in advance.

Jasper, Canada
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5. Re: Alberta Forest Fires - Info on Smoke and Air Quality Issues

The fires are still burning, but there is NO smoke here in Jasper today. But I can see, on the Lake Louise webcam, that it is quite smoky there.

Shahshruti, like predicting the weather that far in advance, it is pretty much impossible to predict the air quality a month ahead, or to know if the fires in Banff National Park and elsewhere will still be burning.

Toronto, Canada
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6. Re: Alberta Forest Fires - Info on Smoke and Air Quality Issues

Hi there

Thx a lot for useful information.

I'm thinking to reschedule my trip from July 25th to September 5th or leave it for 2015.

This would be my first time in Canadian Rockies and wouldn't like to miss beautiful colours because of smoke.

Question: Does wildfire occur every summer and how long does it usually last?

Was it this bad last year?

Thank you in advance

Regards,

Milena

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7. Re: Alberta Forest Fires - Info on Smoke and Air Quality Issues

There are wildfires every year. Last summer, the village of Nordegg, about an hour east of the Icefields Parkway, was evacuated as a result of nearby fires: huffingtonpost.ca/news/…

About ten years ago, all of Kananaskis Country was closed during the Labour Day long weekend because the fire hazard was beyond extreme--but there was no fire there.

I can't recall how bad the smoke was at that time, sometimes it gets bad, sometimes the fires are quickly controlled, sometimes the wind brings in smoke from far distant fires, sometimes it carries away smoke from closer fires.

The bottom line is that fire & smoke is a summer risk, just like a hurricane in a more tropical location, or a tornado in other places. (But much easier to control and avoid.)

Edited: 19 July 2014, 19:41
Toronto, Canada
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8. Re: Alberta Forest Fires - Info on Smoke and Air Quality Issues

Thanks a lot!

I think I will postpone trip for September

Regards

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9. Re: Alberta Forest Fires - Info on Smoke and Air Quality Issues

Don't reschedule. Things are pretty much fine.

I just got back from the fire area, and it looks like the Spreading Creek Fire is, for all intents and purposes, out. We saw only one itty bitty little plume of smoke and that was along Rt 11, probably well back in provincial land (not national park). I suspect the rain (and snow) all weekend has made a huge difference. In the park there was absolutely no smoke, no haze and no smell of smoke.

Honestly, if I hadn't known about the fire, the only clues would have been the road signs - we only saw the fire crews and the burned areas along Rt 11, which is outside the park. That said, we did not go south of Saskatchewan River Crossing, but life looked totally normal at the crossing.

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10. Re: Alberta Forest Fires - Info on Smoke and Air Quality Issues

Thank you, ksneds and krp329 for your response.