Wildfire smoke expected to return to Vancouver Island, says Environment Canada

Wildfire smoke expected to return to Vancouver Island, says Environment Canada
Nicholas Pescod/CHEK News
Wildfire smoke from California is expected to reach Vancouver Island by Wednesday morning, according to Environment Canada.

It might be sunny skies right now, but wildfire smoke is likely returning to Vancouver Island.

Dozens of wildfires continue to burn across California, producing large amounts of smoke, which according to Environment Canada, is moving north towards British Columbia.

Armel Castellan, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, says the wildfire smoke from California has moved over Washington and could reach southern Vancouver Island by as early as Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning.

“We are tracking some smoke that has certainly moved north, its actually just entering offshore waters of Washington state currently,” he said. “So, altogether, not too far away.”

It wasn’t that long ago that Vancouver Island – and a large part of the province – was blanketed with heavy wildfire smoke causing low visibility and poor air quality levels for days.

Castellan says unlike earlier this month, things will be different this time around. He says that’s because the smoke will be at a much higher elevation and is not expected to last for eight days.

“Most of the smoke is going to stay slightly elevated, so not where we are breathing it, but at altitude,” said Castellan, later adding. “We’re not expecting it to be as concentrated as we saw earlier in the month, or as long.”

Even though the smoke will be at a higher altitude, it will still affect air quality in the region.

Castellan says the Air Quality Health Index rating will likely be around four to five, which is considered moderate risk, between Wednesday and Friday.

“The index could go up to a moderate level,” said Castellan. “If you remember, we were at 10 plus in the middle of the month and here we are going to be at maybe a four or five as we go into later parts of Wednesday and into Thursday.”

Once the smoke arrives, Castellan recommends those with young children, the elderly, pregnant woman, those with cardiovascular and respiratory issues, should consider taking precautions by reducing the amount of time spent outside.

“The message is to really remember to check your air quality index forecast level twice daily because it is updated twice a day and see how the hourly levels are going to evolve and adjust your behaviour accordingly . . . particularly if you’re part of the at-risk population,” he said.

Castellan says the wildfire smoke has the potential to reach as far north as Alaska and is expected to clear by Saturday.

“We are expecting some flushing northwesterly flow to come in, perhaps, as early as Friday, but certainly this weekend will kind of evacuate most of the smoke away,” he said.

As the smoke blankets Vancouver Island, Castellan says it will likely result in some beautiful sunrises and sunsets but could also prevent a possible aurora boreal sighting.

“There is going to certainly be some hazy skies and some altered sunrises and sunsets that will probably be fairly beautiful with lots of colour,” he said.

“The northern lights are projected to reach this far south . . . so that might also affect it.”

The situation in California remains very serious as more than 18,700 firefighters continue to battle 27 major wildfires across the state, according to Cal Fire.

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Nicholas PescodNicholas Pescod

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