Public Advisory: Update on Air Quality Related to Forest Fires
August 11, 2022
Air quality related to forest fires in the central region of the island is currently low risk. This is expected to remain low for at least the next 24 hours. While the forest fires remain out of control, conditions are stable and are trending in a positive direction.
The current forecast is projecting the weather to be mainly cloudy with a small chance of precipitation with light winds this evening (Thursday, August 11) through Friday. All air quality statements from Environment Canada have ended and overall air quality is expected to remain good. This may be revised if fire and/or smoke conditions change. For more information on air quality, visit the Environment Canada Grand Falls-Windsor Air Quality Health Index.
Individuals with concerns for their health and safety can leave the area either on their own or by using the transportation being provided to the congregate shelter in Deer Lake.
Forest fires can increase air pollution levels. Forest fire smoke contains particles and pollutants that can harm your health.
To protect yourself, if there is smoke in the area, you should keep windows and doors closed as long as the temperature is comfortable and turn off or use recirculation settings on your HVAC system to prevent smoke from entering your home. For more information on what health impacts it can have and how to protect yourself, please see the backgrounder below.
Any individuals impacted by the state of emergency and air quality can avail of the buses to travel to the congregate shelter in the Hodder Memorial Centre, 8-10 Crescent Street, Deer Lake.
Buses transporting individuals to the congregate shelter in Deer Lake are accessible for mobility devices.
Transportation is available to the congregate shelter in Deer Lake from Bishop’s Falls, Grand Falls-Windsor and Botwood. The muster point/pick-up site in Bishop’s Falls is the Salvation Army Church, in Grand Falls-Windsor is the Joe Byrne Arena and Windsor Stadium, and in Botwood is the Salvation Army Citadel.
Today (Thursday, August 11), buses are running at approximately 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Beginning Friday, August 12, the bus schedule will change from twice a day to once per day departing at the time and locations below:
- Botwood: Salvation Army Citadel at 1:00 p.m.
- Bishops Falls: Salvation Army Church at 1:45 p.m.
- Grand Falls-Windsor: Joe Byrne Arena at 2:30 p.m. and Windsor Arena at 2:45 p.m.
Residents can take their pet(s) on the bus departing from Bishop’s Falls, Grand Falls-Windsor or Botwood however, the pet(s) must be in a proper carrier when you arrive at the pick-up site and during transport on the bus. Upon arrival in Deer Lake, a volunteer will help transport the pet(s) to the pet shelter at the Deer Lake Fire Hall.
The Bay d’Espoir Highway (Route 360) will remain open. Please note that visibility may be reduced and motorists should drive carefully and not stop.
Forest resource roads along Bay d’Espoir Highway (Route 360) remain closed and cabin owners should refrain from entering the area. If you are currently in the area, please vacate immediately as you are endangering yourselves and first responders.
Comfort stations are available to residents and are located at all provincial park locations. All comfort stations have showers, toilets, sinks and coin-operated laundry. There are Wi-Fi hotspots for use at the parks and water taps are available throughout. Please note, we are advising residents not to visit comfort stations that are in direct proximity to the Central Newfoundland fire, such as Notre Dame Provincial Park at the Lewisporte Junction. To find a provincial park location nearest you, please visit www.parksnl.ca/.
Important Contacts for Assistance
For those who have health conditions or sensitivities to poor air quality or other negative effects from the nearby smoke from the forest fires, more information from the Health Authority is provided in the Central Health operations update. As the fire and smoky conditions continue, residents are encouraged to contact 811 or to see a health care provider if they experience any new or concerning symptoms that they feel could be related to the heat or smoke.
Two toll-free phone numbers have been established to help field inquiries pertaining to the Central Newfoundland forest fire emergency. The phone lines will operate from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. A messaging service is available to assist with incoming calls outside the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. These include:
- 1-833-845-0775: Provincial Emergency Operations Centre (PEOC) Phone Line for inquiries regarding supplies, transportation and general questions.
- 1-833-960-4571: Central Health Phone Line for all health inquires.
To help residents and tourists make informed decisions before they travel, please visit the NL511 website at www.nl511.ca. NL511 provides up-to-date information on driving conditions, highway cameras, major incidents, current ferry status updates, and weather. An NL511 app is also available for smartphones.
Emergencies can happen at any time and without warning. All households should have an emergency plan and kit ready. Municipalities, local service districts, power utilities and health authorities have emergency and contingency plans that are activated when the need arises. Detailed emergency preparedness advice, including a downloadable emergency kit checklist, is available at www.gov.nl.ca/beprepared.
Emergency events, such as a forest fire, can lead to fear and anxiety. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, need support, or are looking for health information, call 811 at any time.
If you are feeling anxious and alone, you can also call the Provincial Lifewise Warm Line at 1-855-753-2560, seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to midnight, to speak with a trained peer support worker who is there and ready to listen.
You can also visit Bridge the Gapp to access age-appropriate programs and services that are available locally, confidential and free.
Call 811 to find the nearest Doorways Drop-in Counselling Clinics where counselling services (in person or by telephone) are available without an appointment or referral.
Updates on conditions, resources and assistance will be made available continuously throughout this evolving situation. For the most up to date information, please follow the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador on Facebook and Twitter.
Justice and Public Safety
Air Quality during a Forest Fire
Milder and more common symptoms of smoke exposure include:
- A mild cough
- A runny nose
- Production of phlegm
- Eye, nose and throat irritation
These symptoms can typically be managed without medical intervention.
More serious symptoms include:
- Chest pains
- Severe cough
- Shortness of breath
- Wheezing (including asthma attacks)
- Heart palpitations (irregular heart beat)
If you have any of these symptoms, talk to a health care provider, call 811, or seek medical attention. If you think you are having a medical emergency, dial 911 and seek immediate medical assistance.
Some people are at a higher risk of health problems when exposed to wildfire smoke including:
- Pregnant people
- Infants and young children
- People who work outdoors
- People involved in strenuous outdoor exercise
- People with an existing illness or chronic health conditions, such as:
- mental illness
- lung or heart conditions
The best way to protect your health is to reduce your exposure to wildfire smoke.
- Pay attention to special air quality statements or other indicators of smoke levels in your community. If necessary, limit outdoor activity and strenuous physical activities.
- If you need to work outdoors, check with your provincial or territorial occupational health and safety organization or your local health authority. They can provide guidance on how to work safely outdoors during wildfire smoke events.
Indoors and at home:
- Keep windows and doors closed as long as the temperature is comfortable.
- Turn off or use recirculation settings on your HVAC system to prevent smoke from entering your home.
- Use a clean, good quality air filter (for example, HEPA) in your ventilation system.
- Use an air purifier that uses HEPA filtration to remove smoke from your home. For more information on selecting an air purifier that is appropriate for your needs, refer to the “Using an air purifier to filter wildfire smoke” factsheet.
- Visit community centres, libraries, and shopping malls. These places often have cleaner filtered air and can provide a break from the smoke.
- Keep vehicle windows closed and set the ventilation system to recirculate.
Other recommendations to protect your health:
- Drink plenty of water to help your body cope with the smoke. Check on others who are in your care or live nearby who may be more vulnerable to smoke.
- Avoid vacuuming and burning candles, incense or other materials.
If smoke is present for more than a few days:
- Stay active when you can. Try finding a place with clean air to exercise indoors, for instance at the gym, the community centre or at home. Consult the AQHI to look for breaks in the smoke to find opportunities to go outdoors.
- Don’t forget to take care of your mental health. It’s not unusual to feel anxious, stressed out, sad or isolated during a smoke event. Eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising and staying in contact with friends can help. Anyone who is having trouble coping with symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression should seek help from a health care provider.