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UPDATE: Smoke and ozone levels lead to air quality advisory for Fraser Valley, Metro Vancouver

Wildfire smokea ‘high health risk’ for those with respiratory or chronic conditions
Smoke was thick in the air on Aug. 12, 2021 in downtown Chilliwack as winds shifted. (Jennifer Feinberg/ Chilliwack Progress)

Drifting smoke arriving in the Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland from other areas was so bad Thursday morning (Aug. 12) that some fire departments were getting calls from people thinking something nearby was on fire.

Not only is the extreme heat back for the next four days, but heavy smoke is wafting in from wildfires north of Hope, as well as north of Harrison, and Washington State.

An air quality advisory was issued over the noon hour for Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley Regional District and Fraser Canyon because of high concentrations of fine particulate matter due to smoke, as well as ozone levels due to the sun and heat.

“Outflow winds are bringing smoke from wildfires burning in B.C. and Washington into and over the region, contributing to elevated fine particulate matter concentrations and hazy skies,” according to the Aug. 12 release from Metro Vancouver. “Smoke is currently impacting the central and eastern Fraser Valley and is expected to also reach other areas today or tomorrow.

The actual smoke concentrations may vary widely across the region as winds and temperatures change, and as wildfire behaviour changes.

In addition to the one for particulate matter, an air quality advisory also went out for eastern Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Regional District because of high concentrations of ground-level ozone as a result of hot and sunny weather.

The air quality health index (AQHI) for parts of the Fraser Valley at 6 a.m. on Thursday was 8 which is ‘high health risk.’

RELATED: Heat is back and bad AQ

A message posted on the Chilliwack Scanner page: “PSA: the fire department has been getting a ton of smoke calls during the night, the truth is, the smoke is really bad this morning, therefore there is no need to call about the smoke, dispatch has been getting all the cities in the Fraser Valley to call them to let them know.”

To avoid the smoke, close doors and windows, run the air conditioning if possible, and air cleaners.

Health officials say to avoid outdoor activities and strenuous exercise especially those with respiratory issues and chronic health conditions.

RELATED: Smoke from wildfire creating respiratory issues

The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) advises using a portable HEPA air cleaner to filter the air in one area of your home. Also visit public spaces such as cooling centres, libraries, and shopping malls which tend to have cleaner, cooler indoor air.

Take it easy on smoky days because the harder you breathe, the more smoke you inhale. Also drink lots of water to help reduce inflammation, more than usual.

If you are working outdoors, use an N95 respirator that has been properly fitted.

More on how to stay safe is on the BCCDC website.

RELATED: Staying safe is being diligent about AQ

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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