Blue Sky Canada Smoke Forecasting System is showing that local smoke is coming from fires in Washington, in forecast modeling from Sept. 8, 2020 (Blue Sky Canada)

Smoky Skies Alert issued for southern B.C. due to fires in Washington

Forecasting model illustrates drifting smoke hundreds of miles from fires

A forecast modelling system shows just how much smoke is drifting from fires in Washington and Idaho over southern B.C.

The Blue Sky Canada Smoke Forecasting System tracks and forecasts smoke as it drifts through air sheds, sparking enough of a concern for the government to release a Smoky Skies Bulletin on Tuesday (Sept. 8).

The regions most affected by the “long range transport” of the smoke over the next 24 to 48 hours will be Vancouver Island, the coastal mainland, Okanagan, Kootenays, and the Boundary region. The map in the bulletin also includes the Fraser Valley.

“During a wildfire, smoke conditions can change quickly over short distances and can vary considerably hour-by-hour,” the bulletin states. “Wildfire smoke is a natural part of our environment but it is important to be mindful that exposure to smoke may affect your health.

They advise people with pre-existing health conditions, respiratory infections such as COVID19, as well as older adults, pregnant women and infants, children, and sensitive individuals are more likely to experience health effects from smoke exposure.

On Tuesday afternoon, an air quality advisory was issued for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley due to elevated levels of fine particulate matter. Also known as PM2.5, fine particulate matter refers to airborne solid or liquid droplets with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres (µm) or less. PM2.5 can easily penetrate indoors because of its small size.

READ MORE: “We’ll have to see”: Painted Rock Winery’s future uncertain as Okanagan wildfire rages

Tips they offer include:

• Stop or reduce your activity level if breathing becomes uncomfortable or you feel unwell.

• Stay cool and drink plenty of fluids.

• If you have asthma or other chronic illness, carry any rescue (fast-acting) medications with you at all times and activate your personal care plan that has been designed with your family physician.

• Make sure that children and others who cannot care for themselves follow the same advice.

• Monitor your symptoms.

• If you are unsure whether you need medical care, call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1.

• If you are experiencing difficulty in breathing, chest pain or discomfort, or a severe cough, contact your health care provider, walk-in clinic, or emergency department. If you are having a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

Air Quality is changing to moderate or high on the AQHI scale, as well.

The highest is in the Central and South Okanagan, at 10+, while areas with High AQHI today (Sept. 8) include Duncan, some areas of Metro Vancouver, and the North Okanagan.

READ MORE: Heat warnings posted for parts of B.C. as temperature records have tumbled


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