Smoky skies bulletin continues Friday but air quality starting to improve on Vancouver Island

Smoky skies bulletin continues Friday but air quality starting to improve on Vancouver Island
File photo/CHEK
A heron at Swan Lake Christmas Hill Bird Sanctuary on Sept. 18, 2020.

The smoky skies bulletin was extended once again on Friday for parts of Vancouver Island, but the province said smoke is currently beginning to dissipate across the western half of the Island.

According to the province, further improvements will continue across the B.C. west to east with widespread improvement by Sunday.

In the central portions of the B.C., smoke will be visible aloft with potential for light-moderate impacts at the surface later today and tomorrow.

The smoky skies bulletin map for B.C. on Sept. 18, 2020. (Province of BC)

The smoky skies bulletin map for B.C. on Sept. 18, 2020. (Province of BC)

As of Friday morning, all of Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands, along with other parts of B.C., were under a special air quality statement issued by Environment Canada.

As of Friday afternoon, the B.C. Air Quality Health Index  was at 2 (low risk) for Victoria, West Shore and 3 (low risk) for the Comox Valley. Nanaimo and Duncan were at 6 and 4, which is moderate risk.

Canada Post said there were no delivery suspensions Friday due to the wildfire smoke. However, some areas central and southern B.C. were under a yellow service delivery alert meaning there may be delays. Those areas are:

  • Cloverdale
  • Delta
  • Parts of Metro Vancouver
  • New Westminster
  • Powell River
  • Richmond
  • Surrey
  • Greater Victoria area
  • White Rock

Regions included under the smoky skies bulletin are: 

100 Mile includes Hwy 97 from 108 Mile House to Clinton, Bridge Lake and Canim Lake.
Arrow Lakes – Slocan Lake includes Slocan, New Denver, Nakusp, and Fauquier
B.C. South Peace River includes Chetwynd, Dawson Creek, Pouce Coupe, and Tumbler Ridge Boundary includes Grand Forks, Midway and Greenwood
Bulkley Valley includes Hazelton, Smithers, Telkwa and Granisle
Campbell River includes Stories Beach
Cariboo (North) includes Quesnel, Wells and Bowron Lake Park
Cariboo (South) includes Williams Lake, Northern and Central sections of Wells Gray Park
Central Okanagan includes Kelowna, Lake Country, West Kelowna and Peachland
Chilcotin includes Hansville, Alexis Creek, Chilanko Forks, Tatla Lake, Nimpo Lake, Anahim Lake, and the southern half of Tweedsmuir Park
Comox Valley includes Black Creek and Cumberland
East Columbia includes Golden
East Kootenay (North) includes Edgwater, Inveremere, Canal Flats and Skookumchuck
East Kootenay (South) includes Kimberley, Cranbrook, Yahk, Moyie, Wasa Lake Provinical Park, Jaffray, Grasmere and Roosville
Duncan extends from Ladysmith to Shawnigan Lake
East Vancouver Island (central) includes Nanoose Bay, Parksville, Coombs, Qualicum Beach, Fanny Bay, Hornby Island
Elk Valley includes Elko, Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford
Fraser Canyon (North) Includes Lillooet and Andersen Lake
Fraser Canyon (South) Trans Canada Hwy 1 from Lytton to Choate.
Greater Victoria includes Sidney, Victoria, Saanich, Langford, Metchosin
Howe Sound includes Horseshoe Bay, Lions Bay, Squamish, Bowen Island. There is some overlap between areas of Metro Vancouver (e.g. Horseshoe Bay, Lions Bay, Bowen Island) considered part of the Lower Fraser Valley Airshed and the Howe Sound zone used by BC ENV for issuing smoky skies bulletins. A smoky skies bulletin could be issued for the Howe Sound zone before the thresholds are reached to trigger an air quality advisory issued by Metro Vancouver for these overlapping parts of the Lower Fraser Valley Airshed. This should not be interpreted as conflicting information; it reflects the different approaches to notifications about wildfire smoke within the two agencies.
Kinbasket includes Kinbasket reservoir south of Valemount
Kootenay Lake includes Creston and Kaslo
Lakes District includes Houston, Topley, Burns Lake, and Endako
McGregor includes the northern end of the Robson Valley extending from Hansard to Dome Creek; extends north to Monkmon Park
Nanaimo includes Cedar, South Wellington, and Cassidy
Nicola includes Merritt, Strump Lake, Pennask Lake, and Brookmere.
North Coast Inland (South) includes Terrace
North Columbia includes Blue River and McMurphy
North Okanagan includes Vernon, Armstrong, Enderby, Lavington and Lumby
North Thompson includes Barriere, Clearwater and Vavenby.
Prince George includes the City of Prince George, Hwy 16 Vanderhoof to Upper Fraser, and Hwy 97 Hixon to the south end of McLeod Lake.
Shuswap includes Salmon Arm, Sicamous, and Chase.
Similkameen includes Princeton
South Okanagan includes Penticton, Summerland, Naramata, Keremeos, Oliver and Osoyoos
South Thompson includes Kamloops, Rayleigh, Monte Creek, Cache Creek, Spences
Bridge and Logan Lake.
Southern Gulf Islands includes Southern Gulf Islands
Sunshine Coast (south) includes Sechelt, Gibsons, and Earls Cove
Sunshine Coast (north) includes, Powell River and Quadra Island
West Columbia includes Revelstoke
West Kootenay includes Nelson, Castlegar, Trail, Rossland
Whistler includes Whistler and Pemberton
Yellowhead includes McBride and Valemount and all communities within the southern half of the Robson Valley extending from Urling to Valemount and the northern half of Mount Robson Park
Yoho – Kootenay Park includes Yoho and Kootenay National Parks

The province says during a wildfire, smoke conditions can change quickly over short distances and can vary considerably hour-by-hour.

People with pre-existing health conditions, respiratory infections such as COVID-19, older adults, pregnant women and infants, children, and sensitive individuals are more likely to experience health effects from smoke exposure.

During smoky conditions people should:

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

The province also says people respond differently to smoke. Mild irritation and discomfort are common and usually disappear when the smoke clears. Exposure to wildfire smoke and the virus that causes COVID-19 can both result in respiratory symptoms such as a dry cough, sore throat, or difficulty breathing.

People can use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to help determine if they need further assessment or testing for COVID-19.

If you are unsure whether you need medical care, call HealthLink BC at 811. 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 911.

Here are the following tips from the province to reduce smoke exposure:

  • Smoke levels may be lower indoors but will still be elevated, so stay aware of your symptoms even when you are indoors.
  • Running a commercially available HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter can improve indoor air quality in the room where the device is located.
  • If you have a forced-air heating/cooling system in your home, it may help to change the filter and set the fan to run continuously.
  • Reduce indoor air pollution sources such as smoking, burning incense, and frying foods.
  • If traveling in a car with air conditioning, keep the windows up and the ventilation set to recirculate.
  • If you are very sensitive to smoke, consider moving to another location with cleaner air, but be aware that conditions can change rapidly.
  • Maintaining good overall health is a good way to prevent health effects resulting from short-term exposure to air pollution.

READ MORE: Noticing fewer birds? Wildfire smoke may be affecting birds health and migration

Alexa HuffmanAlexa Huffman

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