Air quality concerns as B.C. wildfire smoke blankets Victoria and the coast


WATCH: Smoke and air quality advisories are in effect for Victoria and most of the province as smoke from B.C. wildfires blankets a large swath of the west. Tess van Straaten reports.

With a thick blanket of smoke socking in the city, Victoria looks more like smog-covered Los Angeles than the B.C. capital.

“It’s like a big blanket of fog and it’s just gross,” says Victoria resident Laura Lawley. “I want to see the beautiful Island we have and you can’t see anything.”

“It’s not very nice, that’s for sure!” adds Victoria resident Janet Drover. “We could use some clearer stuff.”

All the smoke is starting to take a toll, and it’s not just people with underlying health conditions who are feeling the effects of the smoke.

“It’s really hard on our breathing and it’s quite shocking because we can’t see the views we used to see and I’m just shocked at how bad it’s getting,” says Nancy Wyckoff. “I’ve also been getting headaches and I’m pretty sure it’s due to all the smoke.”

The wildfire smoke from the Interior and other blazes across the province is blanketing the west coast, prompting air quality warnings on both sides of the border and as far east as Alberta.

“It’s a high-pressure ridge, it’s building, it’s strong and it’s the fifth or sixth one this summer so conditions are very stagnant,” explains Environment Canada meteorologist Armel Castellan. “It’s like having a lid on the atmosphere when you have a ridge of high pressure and it just keeps that smoke, that poor air quality in the lower reaches of the atmosphere where we live.”

And the bad news — the hazy days could last for at least another week, and possibly two.

“We’re not going to see too many changes in the air quality,” Castellan says. “We do see a little bit of a break over the weekend, maybe one or two days where it gets a bit better but it looks like things will just deteriorate soon after that as the ridge re-builds.”

When the skies are this smoky, health officials say there’s usually an uptake in ER visits for heart and lung conditions and with the haze expected to stick around, they’re urging everyone to be careful.

“Any of us can be affected by it, especially when it’s going on for a prolonged basis,” says medical health officer Dr. Murray Fyfe of Island Health.

As a result, health officials are advising people to avoid strenuous activity outdoors. But high-risk groups should limit time outside altogether.

“The main concern is for people who have underlying respiratory conditions, people who have underlying heart conditions, seniors and younger children — those groups are all more vulnerable to the effects of smoke,” Dr. Fyfe says.

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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