Experts advise to avoid toxic smoke near downtown Victoria Plaza Hotel fire

Experts advise to avoid toxic smoke near downtown Victoria Plaza Hotel fire

WATCH: Firefighters remain on the site of a massive blaze in downtown Victoria a day-and -a-half after it began. Crews have moved to start demolishing the Victoria Plaza Hotel building, sending more thick clouds of smoke into the air, virtually shutting down that section of the city. Kori Sidaway has more.

Billowing out, blanketing much of the downtown core, is smoke and lots of it.

“You know just even coming into town you can smell it. It smells like campfire,” said one passerby.

“It’s scratchy down here,” said another Victoria resident, coughing.

“It’s pretty hard, I can only stay for a couple minutes because the smoke is pretty bad,” said local Steve Palmer.

The fire has been burning now for nearly 36 hours since it caught fire early Monday morning, the Plaza Hotel continues to smoulder, smoking out many local businesses.

“We want to make sure they’re not breathing in this,” said Jeff Bray, executive director of the Downtown Business Association.

And those closures, may have long term effects.

“For any business, closure has an impact,” said Bray.

“And for the small business in particular, it can have a really significant impact that they’ll feel months down the line.”

But aside from lost revenue, the smoke may choke up more than just business.

“That smoke is toxic, so if you don’t have to breathe it in, I don’t know why you would,” said Victoria Fire Chief Paul Bruce.

Smoke from a structure fire is filled with high levels of particulate matter from burning carbon, and almost always contains a variety of chemicals.

“Breathing that level of smoke is not good,” said Markus Kellerhals, senior air quality science officer with the BC Ministry of Environment.

“If you don’t have to go there, and don’t have to expose yourself to that smoke, don’t.”
The main area of concern is the epicentre of the fire, extending down Pandora, towards Broad Street and City Hall, where the plumes of choked out city workers.
“Of highest priority for Mayor and council, as well as staff is public safety,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.
City Hall remained closed for the second day in a row because of the poor air quality and will be closed tomorrow as well.
Experts advise those in the downtown area to stay indoors and avoid strenuous activity like running or cycling.
Masks are also suggested for those with respiratory issues, but it has to be a high-efficiency well-fitted one.
Beyond the borders of the downtown centre, experts say the smoke is dissipating and doesn’t pose a health risk.
Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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