Heavy smoke from wildfires filled the air at Algonquin College Photo credit: Thomas Gordon

Algonquin College students have been encouraged to stay inside as wildfires in Ontario and Quebec lowered air quality in Ottawa.

On June 4, a wildfire erupted in Calabogie, Ont., about 150 kilometres west of Ottawa. The smoke combined with Quebec’s wildfires, leaving Algonquin’s Ottawa campus dark and smokey.

“It smells disgusting, it’s not pure – I’m definitely not getting the same amount of oxygen.” said Bem Partington, a film and media production student at Algonquin College.

Students were asked to stay inside when possible, and to wear an N95 mask to protect themselves from harmful toxins when outside. The smoke contains cyanide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide according to Katie Preston, an Algonquin Fire Service student.

“Stay inside if you don’t need to be out here,” said Jenna Gibson, another Algonquin Fire Service student. “Make sure you’re in a well ventilated building – libraries are good for that.”

The Calabogie fire has been contained and is no longer spreading, according to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

The college issued a special air quality statement which included updates from Environment Canada and Ottawa Public Health.

“Learners and employees are encouraged to monitor air quality for their regions and follow best practices, as health officials are advising the general population to reduce or reschedule strenuous outdoor activities, especially if they experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation. It is suggested that learners studying outside, in programs such as forestry, consider wearing a mask,” the release said.

Ottawa Public Health says symptoms of smoke exposure include: headaches, a mild couch, a runny nose and throat irritation.

More information can be found at ottawapublichealth.ca