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Air quality from wildfire smoke reaches dangerous levels in cities across British Columbia, as smoke heads west

Air quality from wildfire smoke reaches dangerous levels in cities across British Columbia, as smoke heads west

For days, thick smoke from wildfires blanketed British Columbia towns in the Kootenays and Okanagan. Now Metro Vancouver is preparing for that smoke to hit the coast this weekend.

On Saturday, Environment and Climate Change Canada released a special air quality statement for parts of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, warning that high ozone levels from the heat wave could present health risks. They also predict that smoke from the wildfires is likely heading west.

“For much of the interior right now, our Air Quality Health Index is 10, which is a very high level, basically in all areas where wildfires are concentrated,” said Derek Lee, a meteorologist. federal government, to CBC News. “We are still monitoring the smoke from the forest fires that will arrive in the coastal area over the next few days.”

Environment and Climate Change Canada issued a statement on Saturday that “a change in the weather on Monday should bring offshore winds to help dispel the smoke.”

How serious it will become remains to be seen, but in cities close to the frontlines of forest fires, fine particle pollution has reached levels dangerous to human health. The impacts are worse on the elderly, young children, and those with pre-existing health conditions.

Number of fires increases by 60

Trail, British Columbia, hit pollution levels 43 times higher than recommended maximum levels on Saturday. Kelowna has reached levels 27 times above the safe limit.

“When we see very high values, we want to avoid very strenuous activities outside,” said Lee.

Environment and Climate Change Canada said there was little respite in sight for these cities. But for the south coast, meteorologists told CBC that a change in the weather on Monday should see winds help clear the smoke.

The BC Wildfire Service said more than 243 wildfires are currently burning in the province – an increase of 60 fires from last week. Most burn in Kamloops area

A total of 4,780 square kilometers have burned so far this year, an increase of 38% from the annual average of the past decade.

Children play on Hot Sands Beach near Okanagan Lake in the interior of British Columbia amid thick forest fire smoke on July 30, 2021. (Wing Yip Szeto / CBC)

Most of the active fires are believed to have been caused by lightning, more of which is expected in the coming days.

“We are forecasting lightning,” Jean Strong, of the BC Forest Fire Department, told CBC News Network on Saturday, “but we are also expecting precipitation and hopefully that might outweigh some. Lightnings.”

Meanwhile, there are 60 evacuation orders in place. No new orders were issued on Saturday.

Anyone placed under an evacuation order must leave the area immediately.

Evacuation centers have been set up across the province to assist anyone evacuated from a community threatened by a forest fire. To find the center closest to you, visit Emergency management BC. website.

Evacuees are encouraged to register with Emergency support services online, whether or not they access the services of an evacuation center.

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