There may have been clearer skies this morning but officials say hazy conditions from the wildfire smoke will remain across Vancouver Island.

The smoky skies bulletin issued for Greater Victoria, the Southern Gulf Islands, west Vancouver Island, inland Vancouver Island and east Vancouver Island continues Thursday as 563 wildfires continue to burn across the province. Northern Vancouver Island is no longer under the bulletin.

Environment Canada said the winds shifted west overnight, which led to an onshore flow of fresh Pacific air along the coast. This means many coastal communities, including Victoria, saw a significant air quality improvement Thursday morning. But as of Thursday afternoon, Victoria was listed at a rating of 4 (moderate) on B.C.’s Air Quality Health Index. The West Shore was also at a 4, while Nanaimo/Parksville, Duncan and the Comox Valley had a rating of 2.

“We’re getting finally a change in the air mass and actually that change is here to stay well through the weekend and into the beginning of next week,” Meteorologist with Environment Canada Matt McDonald said.

Before some of the smoke cleared out of the area overnight, fire departments in Langford and Saanich had to alert residents that the heavy smoke was from the wildfires and there were no local fires in those areas.

“We got a tremendous amount of calls to our dispatch centre as people thinking that their might be a fire on the south island because the smoke conditions changed quite dramatically but, actually, it had to do with the weather,” said Langford Fire Chief Chris Aubrey.

The Pacific air will take longer to reach the inland communities of the south coast and B.C.’s interior will see little improvement in smoky conditions as northwest winds prevail in the area.

While rain is in the forecast for the weekend, Environment Canada said there won’t be enough to quell the wildfires. Communities downwind of wildfires will still experience high concentrations of fine particulate matter and poor air quality.

Environment Canda is reminding people that smoke conditions can change quickly over short distances and can vary considerably hour-by-hour. People with pre-existing health conditions, the elderly, infants, children and sensitive individuals are more likely to experience health effects from smoke exposure.

It is recommended that people with breathing difficulties stay indoors in an area that’s cool and ventilated.

Alexa Huffman