The provincial government issued an open burning restriction for all High Smoke Sensitivity Zones across BC in an effort to lower air pollution during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In collaboration with health officials, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy decided it was best for the health of British Columbians to suspend all open fire activity in these areas until April 15th.
No new fires are permitted and no additional material can be added to existing fires, according to the Ministry.
The fire ban applies to category 2 and 3 fires, as set out by the Wildfire Service. Category 1 fires, such as campfires, are still allowed within these perimeters. BC’s Wildfire service has a page on their website outlining what size fire belongs in which category.
The Ministry said the BC Centre for Disease Control recommended implementing measures to reduce any excess air pollution.
“There is strong evidence that exposure to air pollution increases susceptibility to respiratory viral infections by decreasing immune function,” said the Ministry in a press release on Thursday.
According to the Ministry, this means that deterioration in air quality may lead to more severe cases of COVID-19, adding demand to BC’s healthcare system.
It also stresses the importance of improving air quality because that may help protect the public from the coronavirus.
“Evidence suggests that air pollution from combustion sources is most strongly associated with increased risk of viral infection, particularly vehicle emissions and biomass burning,” said the province.
“At this time the BC Centre for Disease Control strongly recommends that open burning of biomass fuels be restricted in areas with a high or moderate risk of population exposure to the resulting smoke.”
Though subject to change, currently many areas of Vancouver Island are under the restriction, including the cities from Greater Victoria to Campbell River, Tofino and Port Hardy. The below map outlines the affected areas as of Thursday, March 26th.
The areas under restrictions will be evaluated on a daily basis, and changed if necessary. To see the most accurate and up-to-date information on what areas are under the ban, visit the Venting Index Interactive Map.
The Ministry also said social distancing should still be the main focus among British Columbians, but keeping the air as clean is definitely something to be aware of as it will also help protect the public.