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Wildfire smoke could move into Ottawa, eastern Ontario tonight

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Wildfires in western Canada will likely bring smoke into Ottawa and eastern Ontario starting on Monday and into Tuesday morning.

CTV's Your Morning chief meteorologist Kelsey McEwen says smoke could travel as far as Quebec City by Tuesday morning with air quality advisories being issued in five provinces.

"You can see the Jetstream pulling that smoke down south of the border through the Dakotas and back up through the Great Lakes," McEwen said.

"By tomorrow, this begins to slide toward the Ottawa-Gatineau area, tomorrow morning and out toward Quebec City."

Environment Canada’s Air Quality Health Index monitors the level of air pollution. At 9 a.m. on Monday, the air quality for Ottawa was 2 – 'low risk.' The index says the air quality is expected to remain at low risk through Tuesday morning.

"The issue is that it can be inhaled very profoundly in the respiratory tract and end up creating inflammation. And so people who have asthma or chronic respiratory conditions are, usually the ones most at risk," says Health Canada epidemiologist Eric Lavigne. "The nose or the eyes can be some of the first points of contact when there's poor air quality. And so people might see that they have maybe a runny nose or they have high irritation, even though people are in good health, they may still be affected."

As the wildfire season gets underway, central and northern Alberta communities are under an air quality warning Monday as thick smoke moves northeast, a trend expected to continue through Tuesday. Very dense smoke will be present in that area over the next two days, the forecast suggests.

The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre reported that, as of May 9, around 90 fires were burning across Canada, including 12 that were classified as out of control.

Of the current fires, 40 are burning in Alberta, 24 in British Columbia and 10 in Manitoba. The four fires burning in New Brunswick are the only ones in Atlantic Canada, while Ontario has two and Quebec one.

Dave Sawyer, principal economist with the Canadian Climate Institute, says last summer was a real eye-opener for people in eastern Ontario.

"Last year in eastern Canada, with the Quebec fires, we saw the smoke season for the first time, and so I think there was a bit of a surprise for everybody and just how bad it was and for how long it hung around. The air quality impacts were literally off the charts."

Sawyer says there are several factors at play in this year's wildfire picture.

"We also had a number of winter storm events that knocked a lot of brush down in the forest. So you have sort of a couple of things going on. More winter storms, knocking kindling down and fuel down to the forest floor and then drought conditions."

Most of Ontario and western Quebec are at moderate risk of wildfires, while eastern Quebec and Atlantic Canada show low risk.

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Jack Richardson, CTVNews.ca and The Canadian Press

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