Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley haven't yet had the usual streak of hot summer weather that sends throngs to local beaches.

Cool summer keeps pollution and fires down

Dearth of 30-degree days means no air quality alerts for the Lower Mainland

A cooler than normal summer has put a damper on holiday fun but it’s also left many Lower Mainland residents breathing easier.

No air quality warnings have been issued this year, due to an absence of hot weather in the Lower Mainland and an unusually low number of forest fires in the B.C. Interior.

By this time last year, two air quality advisories had been issued spanning a total of six days.

The hottest weather so far was last weekend – 30.6 degrees in Abbotsford Saturday and 27.4 in Vancouver.

But that was the first time Abbotsford topped 30 so far in 2011, according to Environment Canada meteorologist David Jones, adding there would usually be about seven 30-plus days by now.

“That’s quite unusual,” he said. “It’s been a long cold spring, a slow start to summer and a total absence of hot spells.”

The cooler weather has been widespread throughout B.C., he said, adding that’s helped keep forest fires down and helped with air quality in Metro Vancouver.

“You need heat waves and big ridges of unchanging stagnant air to get air quality issues,” Jones said. “And you need long stretches of hot dry air to create fire risk. We just haven’t had either of those this year.”

Metro Vancouver air quality planner Julie Saxton said ozone concentrations tend to build when it’s hot and there’s lots of sunshine.

Last year’s advisories were driven mainly by fine particulate from wildfire smoke, she added.

“We’ve been very lucky this summer that we haven’t had poor air quality affecting us,” she said, but added a hot spell could still develop between now and mid-September.

It’s the slowest year in at least the last 10 for wildfires, according to B.C.’s fire information centre.

So far 469 fires have burned 11,782 hectares. An average year sees B.C. fight nearly 2,000 fires and lose almost 100,000 hectares.

As a result, B.C. has sent nearly 2,000 firefighters out of province this year to assist with fires in Ontario, Alberta and Alaska.

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