05/18/2016 05:15 EDT | Updated 05/18/2016 05:59 EDT

Fort McMurray Fire: Researcher To Study Firefighters' Long-Term Health

Hazardous smoke is a concern for the responders.

SHERWOOD PARK, Alta. — A researcher has started tracking the health of firefighters helping battle a massive Fort McMurray wildfire.

Nicola Cherry at the University of Alberta is taking blood, urine and breath samples of firefighters as they return from northeastern Alberta in a mobile laboratory set up in Sherwood Park, east of Edmonton.

She says hazardous smoke from the blaze is a concern for everyone working in the area.

Dr. Jeremy Beach, left, tests the lung function of firefighter captain Kelly Lehr with a spirometer at a fire hall in Sherwood Park, Alta. (Photo: Jason Franson/CP)

Cherry has so far tested 55 firefighters and plans to do followups with the study group in three months and perhaps longer.

She plans to see if patterns emerge while comparing factors such as work hours and respiratory devices with long-term health effects.

The fire, now covering more than 4,200 square kilometres, spread into the city of Fort McMurray on May 3, sending more than 80,000 residents fleeing for their safety.

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