Wildfire and Smoke Exposure

News Type: 

YELLOWKNIFE - August 16, 2023: The Chief Public Health Officer is issuing Public Health Advisory for multiple communities due to adverse air quality.

Due to wildfire smoke, various regions of the Northwest Territories are experiencing adverse air quality, and the situation poses a risk to the health of the community members.

The amount of smoke may change due to weather conditions and vary over short distances and from hour to hour. Exposure to smoke is highest in people who are physically active outdoors (including outdoor workers). People at risk of more severe health impacts include young children and the elderly, people with diabetes, lung or heart conditions, and pregnant women.

Symptoms of adverse air can be:

  • headache
  • sore eyes, nose, and throat
  • tears,
  • cough,
  • runny nose.

Severe symptoms include dizziness, chest pains, shortness of breath, wheezing and heart palpitation (irregular heartbeat).

Anyone experiencing severe symptoms should call 8-1-1 or visit your local health centre.

Protecting yourself

  • Reduce your exposure to smoke by staying indoors with windows and doors closed.
  • Use portable air filters (HEPA filters) in small (single) rooms to help improve indoor air.
  • Drink plenty of liquids and stay hydrated.
  • If you must be outside, use a face mask.
  • Do not smoke indoors.
  • Limit the use of incense, candles, or wood stoves indoors.
  • Check the proper functioning of carbon monoxide (CO) monitors.
  • If using a vehicle, use the re-circulation function in your vehicle’s ventilation system.

Protect your loved ones, neighbours, and elders by checking on them to ensure they are well hydrated and protected from smoke.

If you have difficulty maintaining indoor air quality, please check with the local authorities to access the community’s “clean air shelters.”

Mental well-being

Prolong stretches of poor air quality and stressful situations like emergencies and disasters may raise anxiety, fear, concern and feeling of no control. People may not cope like they usually do. Learning about and using healthy coping skills is vital in maintaining good mental health.

  • Use breathing techniques to manage anxiety.
  • Pay attention to thoughts, feeling and body sensations.
  • Be sure to rest and try to get enough sleep.
  • Engage with friends and loved ones to maintain social connections.
  • Find a way to be physically active indoors.

Checking in with a mental health and counselling resource can help provide strategies, advice, and resources to deal with this challenging situation. Anyone in Yellowknife can access the community counselling program open Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 5 pm, by calling (867) 767-9110 ext 3.

There are also a number of remote supports that are accessible below:

  • NWT Help Line  1-800-661-0844
  • Kids Help Phone  1-800-668-6868, Or text CONNECT to 686868
  • Wellness Together Canada  Adults: 1-866-585-0445, Youth: 1-888-668-6810
  • Canada Suicide Prevention Service  1-833-456-4566
  • Hope For Wellness  1-855-242-3310
  • Family Violence Crisis line  1-866-223-7775

Other Information

Most current information wildfire situation in NWT: Public Safety | Government of Northwest Territories

Current air quality levels for your community: https://map.purpleair.com/1/mPM25 

You can find additional information on the health effects of smoke at:

For more information, contact:

Jeremy Bird
Manager, Communications
Health and Social Services
(867) 767-9052 ext. 49034