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Smell smoke? Wildfires ignite high air pollution levels in Simcoe County, Muskoka

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Concerns mount over air quality as haze hovers over the region from wildfires across the province and Quebec.

Environment Canada's Senior Climatologist David Phillips warned the smokey situation is unhealthy. "And it will linger for as long as the weather stays stale."

Environment Canada's special air quality statement remains in effect, and will persist into the weekend, as high levels of air pollution developed in the region due to forest fire smoke.

"Wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone's health, even at low concentrations," the national weather agency stated. "Continue to take actions to protect your health and reduce exposure to smoke."

It recommends stopping outdoor activities and remaining indoors with the windows closed "if the temperature in your home is comfortable."

Dr. Emil Prikryl with Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) warns residents, especially those who are considered at high risk of illness like seniors, young children and people living with chronic heart and lung conditions, to protect themselves as the air quality worsens.

"There can be mild symptoms ranging from sinus irritation, a mild cough, itchy throat, itchy eyes; you might've had that already," she said.

"All the way to much more severe ones like significant shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain or heart palpitations."

Barrie fire officials said its call centre had been fielding an increase in calls, primarily due to the smell of smoke.

Fire officials say it's unusual for this level of smoke for this length of time, which can vary in intensity in certain areas at different times.

"It is certainly dependent on the weather. It'll come and go. The smoke, depending on wind conditions and wind direction, could vary greatly from hour to hour," said Asst. Deputy Chief Derek Wilson, Barrie Fire and Emergency Service. 

They advise residents that structure or vehicle fires usually create dark smoke and flames and to consider what they are smelling may be from the forest fires before calling in an emergency.

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