LA LOCHE, Sask. – The same wildfire that caused widespread devastation in Fort McMurray has left many in northern Saskatchewan with sore throats, irritated eyes and shortness of breath. Smoke has been pouring into the community of La Loche for several days.
The heavy smoke prompted a special air quality statement from Environment Canada, warning of “high health risk conditions.”
‘Trauma is trauma’: High River residents empathize with Fort McMurray
NB couple creates t-shirts to raise money for Fort McMurray fire victims
Parts of southern Sask. under a rainfall warning
READ MORE: Dangerously dry conditions, what rainfall amounts are required
At the Ducharme Elementary School in La Loche, students have been kept indoors for recess while doors and windows remain shut.
“Our students’ health is definitely number one [priority]. Not only our students, but our staff,” school principal Leanne Gailey said.
Conditions on Friday deteriorated to the point where classes had to be cancelled for the safety of students and staff. Teachers and students with chronic health conditions are excused until air quality improves.
FULL COVERAGE: Fort McMurray Wildfire
Winds from the northeast shifted southward Monday, moving some smoke away from La Loche and in the direction of Buffalo Narrows, about 100 kilometres south of the community.
Ventolin and steroid inhalers were completely sold out at La Loche’s only pharmacy Monday.
“Smoke has always been a fact of life here during the summer time,” said Chai Daongam, managing pharmacist at La Loche CentrePoint Grocery and Pharmacy.
For many, this marks the start of what is usually a smoky season in La Loche, Daongam said.
“They’ve been through this before, so they know that a lot of it is just a proactive thing. They try to get ahead of the problem before it gets started,” he added.
La Loche’s acting mayor, Kevin Janvier, has remained in contact with provincial ministries and the local health region.
“There are some plans in place, and [people should] just kind of wait it out and be prepared,” he said.
READ MORE: Sask. officials watching Fort McMurray wildfire approach border
In an update Monday morning, the Saskatchewan government said no communities within the province are in imminent danger.