Forest fire smoke disrupts local life

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The sun hidden behind wildfire smoke on June 6.

Massive forest fires raging in Quebec and in the area of Calabogie caused major air quality problems throughout parts of Ontario and Quebec last week. Smoke from the forest fires became visible to the naked eye in the areas of Kemptville and Winchester on June 5. At that time, the haze seemed relatively minor, and resembled the kind of airborne smoke that might form in a small area near a large local house or barn fire. Nevertheless, meteorologists from Environment Canada were already predicting that the smoke would get much worse, and they were right. 

By June 6, a thick smoky haze was visible everywhere outside, and the smoke worsened by June 7. The outdoors almost seemed to have a “yellow tint” during periods when the sun was out, and even without cloud cover, it was as dark outside as would be expected during overcast conditions. 

Area health units were advising against people going outside for measurable periods of time, particularly those with pre-existing conditions that make breathing difficult, such as asthma. Schools in the area suspended outdoor recesses and outdoor field trips “out of an abundance of caution”. In many schools, precautions included keeping windows closed and preventing students from lining up outside before boarding buses as well. The severity of the smoke was becoming so bad by June 6 that the UCDSB was beginning to cancel outdoor activities ahead of time. 

Local youth and adult sport leagues were taking precautions as well. The North Dundas United Soccer Club cancelled practices and games on June 6, and then in the morning hours of June 7, pre-cancelled all events between June 7 and June 10. In Kemptville, a grand opening event for the new Crozier Park playground was postponed over health concerns. 

By June 8, the air was much clearer, and activities were resuming as normal for the most part locally, though in areas such as Toronto, the air quality remained bad for a few more days.

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