Chilliwack air quality expected to improve this weekend

Cooler temperatures and a chance of showers

After nearly two weeks of smoke-choked skies, Chilliwack residents could be breathing a little easier this weekend.

Conditions that brought wildfire smoke from B.C.’s interior to the Fraser Valley are expected to ease late Friday, bringing even the potential for showers by Sunday.

The change will be welcomed in Chilliwack, where the Air Quality Health Index has hovered around 7 – meaning a high health risk – since July 31.

And it hasn’t just been Chilliwack residents who have complained.

The smoky skies and warmer temperatures have caused a spike in hospital visits in the region.

That’s according to Dr. Bonnie Henry, deputy provincial health officer, who said the increase in emergency calls and hospital visits were from people suffering respiratory conditions and other health issues related to smoke and heat.

“Depending on the day and the time of day, the increase can be from 20 per cent to 50 per cent more than we’ve seen in the past 10 years in the same area,” she said.

The BC Ambulance Service is monitoring the situation and staffing accordingly, Henry said.

Health officials are reminding people with chronic underlying medical conditions to postpone strenuous exercise until air quality advisories are lifted, as exposure remains a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have diabetes, and lung or heart disease.

With warm temperatures also continuing, people should stay cool and hydrated.

~ With files from Ashley Wadhwani