Environment Canada is warning of poor air quality in the capital as plumes of wildfire smoke from Quebec again blanket the sky, causing outdoor events to be cancelled and many outdoor amenities to be closed.
Festivals across the city have either cancelled or modified their schedules and the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau have announced the closure of outdoor pools and beaches.
The weather forecast for the city calls for widespread smoke throughout the day and overnight.
The Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) reached the maximum level of 10+ by 11 a.m. It is forecast to remain at that level through the rest of the day and overnight. The advice to the general public is to reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors, especially if experiencing symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation. Children, the elderly, and people at risk, such as those with chronic lung issues, heart disease, or who are pregnant, should also avoid any strenuous activities and physical exertion outdoors, Environment Canada suggests.
A special air quality statement for the city says conditions are expected to improve Monday. A smog warning is in effect for Gatineau.
Wildfires have been burning in Quebec for weeks, causing hazy conditions in Ottawa throughout the month of June. The fire risk has prompted evacuation orders most recently in small villages in northwestern Quebec near the boundary with Ontario.
The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre says there are 473 active fires burning across the country, 242 of which are out of control. Three new fires were reported Sunday alone.
Approximately 7.2 million hectares, or 72,000 square kilometres, of forest has burned this year so far. For comparison, the province of New Brunswick has an area of around 73,000 square kilometres.
Experts note that climate change is creating conditions that lead to stronger and more widespread forest fires, which in turn spread smoke over large areas. The current forecast map on firesmoke.ca shows smoke affecting much of eastern Canada and significant swaths of northern Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C., with some smoke reaching as far north as the Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories.
CITY OF OTTAWA CANCELS OUTDOOR PROGRAMS
The city of Ottawa cancelled all city-run outdoor recreational programs and leagues Sunday and all wading pools and outodoor pools were closed. City beaches all have a no-swim advisory for the day.
Splash pads remain open and all indoor programs remain unaffected.
The city says sport fields, ball diamonds and city parks will remain open, but organizers can make cancellation requests to the city through the inclement weather process to receive account credits, where warranted. All drop-in programs that operate outdoors will move indoors, where possible.
Programming and facilities are expected to operate as normal on Monday.
The city of Gatineau also announced the closure if its beaches and outdoor pools as of 3 p.m.
Races at the Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival at Mooney’s Bay continued through Sunday morning but were cancelled as of 11:40 a.m., according to a statement Sunday afternoon. Vendors were permitted to remain open until 3 p.m.
A spokesperson for the Ottawa Jazz Festival says Sunday’s programming is going ahead, but the festival will keep a close eye on conditions as the day progresses.
Escapade Music Festival pushed back its opening time Sunday to 2:30 p.m. The festival said in a statement it is monitoring the AQHI.
The Ottawa Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival cancelled its Pow Wow and other outdoor activities Sunday.
Smoky conditions at the Rideau Canal Locks in downtown Ottawa. June 25, 2023. (Josh Pringle/CTV News Ottawa)
TRIATHLON CANCELLED IN QUEBEC
An Ironman event in Mont-Tremblant, Que. was cancelled due to the wildfire smoke.
In a post on its website, Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant said it made the decision to cancel Sunday’s triathlon in consultation with provincial health authorities.
“IRONMAN has strict safety benchmarks in place for air quality, which have not been met and the forecast does not suggest the AQI will improve throughout the day,” the statement says. “It is always our priority to ensure the safety of our participants, spectators, volunteers, staff, and all others that are involved in the event.”
Mont-Tremblant and much of southern Quebec is under a smog warning from Environment Canada, which warns of deteriorating air quality and poor visibility.
There are currently more than 80 active wildfires in Quebec.
Disappointed triathletes gather under smoky skies in Mont-Tremblant, Que. on June 25, 2023. The Ironman 70.3 race was cancelled due to poor air quality caused by northern wildfires. (Courtesy image)
Sunday’s afternoon high is 25 C with a humidex of 29. The UV index is 10, or very high, and the AQHI is expected to remain at 10+ through the afternoon.
The evening and overnight forecast includes widespread smoke and an AQHI of 10+. The low is 18 C.
Monday’s forecast is smoky in the morning with an AQHI of 7, or high risk, dropping to a moderate risk level of 4 by the evening. Monday’s high is 26 C with a humidex of 34. The forecast also calls for 15 to 25 mm of rain showers in the afternoon with the risk of a thunderstorm.
Tuesday’s outlook is cloudy with showers and a high of 25 C.
Wednesday could also see showers with a high of 22 C.
–With files from CTV News Montreal and The Canadian Press.