A federal government representative visited Saskatoon on Saturday to assure the province Ottawa is doing everything it can to assist those impacted by the wildfires in other parts of the country.
“Today, the prime minister convened another incident response group with ministers and senior officials to discuss the ongoing wildfire situation,” said federal Minister for Energy and Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson.
“We are actively helping and will continue to help people in the Northwest Territories and British Columbia and across Canada for as long as it takes.”
‘Heartbreaking’: Wilkinson says government doing everything they can for wildfire victims
Yellowknife residents evacuated the Northwest Territories on Friday by car and plane. Roughly 20,000 residents were forced out of the area by noon.
Saskatchewan offered to shelter to those escaping the flames and smoke.
“Today, the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) deployed an Incident Management Team (5 staff), two Agency representatives and 40 Type 1 wildland firefighters to support the wildfire efforts in Northwest Territories. The group left from the Prince Albert Airport this morning and is expected to be out of the province for approximately two weeks, but they can be called back to Saskatchewan at any time should the need arise,” read a statement from the Saskatchewan government.
“Currently, 16 Saskatchewan wildland firefighters are deployed in the Yukon to help local ground crews in their efforts to contain wildfires burning in the territory.”
On Saturday, Wilkinson said the federal government is still doing everything it can to offer resources to the provinces ablaze and are taking suggestions from all levels of government.
“The bottom line is that this is the government’s number one priority and its most important responsibility at this point in time. We continue to work across federal departments to provide communities with the support they need to keep people safe and healthy,” Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson also added that the fires are a result of climate change, and that Canadians can either accept it as a scientific reality that must be addressed, or pretend climate concerns will fade.
As for effects on Saskatchewan, the excess smoke from the western blazes has blanketed the provinces, pushing east once again.
N.W.T. and B.C. brace for more wildfires as crisis escalates across Canada
From fires in B.C. and Alberta back in April to the northern regions now burning, poor air quality levels throughout the summer have created countless days of haze and high health risks.
“The last few days have been poor in terms of air quality and it’s going to get worse over the next few days,” said St. Paul’s hospital respirologist Don Sin. “I’ve been seeing more patients coming to the clinic complaining of shortness of breath and cough.”
Sin said he is seeing a 30- to 40-per cent increase in these symptoms but expects that number to rise.
“Over the last 20 years, we are seeing a rise in mortality from respiratory conditions, especially from COPD and asthma,” Sin said. “Wildfires are one contributing factor to the overall burden of disease.”
Sin explained that for someone with a respiratory illness, their windpipes will spasm and tighten when wildfire pollutants are inhaled.
“As a result, it’s like breathing through a straw. You can’t.”
Eric Dykes, meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, said folks are just going to have to used to the air quality moving forward.
“We have to prepare ourselves for this being part of the normal from her on in,” said Dykes. “Despite the fact that folks are doing the best they can to alleviate climate change, it is inevitable and it is occurring.”
Canada wildfires: How will smoke affect health of Canadians?
— with files from Global News’ Katherine Ludwig
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