Air quality warnings have been issued for large sections of southern British Columbia as wildfire smoke from the United States is pushed north.
Environment and Climate Change Canada has issued air quality warnings for Vancouver Island and parts of British Columbia’s Interior region.
The agency has issued air quality alerts for large parts of southern B.C. and the air quality health index lists the central and south Okanagan as “very high risk” followed by Victoria and Saanich on Vancouver Island as “high risk.”
The government recommends rescheduling strenuous outdoor activities to better protect your health during high-risk and very high-risk air quality warnings.
An air quality advisory has also been issued for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Regional District due to fine particulate matter, which is expected to last through at least Tuesday night.
Carol Connolly, a public information officer with the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in the U.S., said the smoke is likely from the Cold Springs and Pearl Hill fires in northern Washington state, which have grown to a combined size of 1,365 square kilometres.
“Come Thursday, those easterly winds will start to ease up pushing out of the area,” she said. “I think we’re in it for a couple of days and we may see some relief toward the end of the week.”
The state has seen a relatively average fire season until the past 24 hours, Connolly added.
“This has been our big push from the summer. With these fires … they were wind-driven, which increased the size dramatically,” she said.
Connolly said the source of the fires is under investigation.
The smoke comes as B.C. deals with a below-average wildfire season.
Karley Desrosiers, a fire information officer with the BC Wildfire Service, said the province has seen a decrease in fires compared to this time last year.
“Especially with COVID and everything, definitely it’s been a relief for sure that the season has been more mild than previous, recent years,” she said.
In 2019, B.C. had experienced roughly 800 fires by the start of September. This year, the province has seen 606 fires.
The province had three wildfires of note on Tuesday, with the largest listed as the Doctor Creek fire, which was 25 kilometres southwest of Canal Flats and had burned almost 80 square kilometres of land.
The Christie Mountain fire six kilometres north of Okanagan Falls had burned just over 21 square kilometres of land, and the Talbott Creek fire about 30 kilometres north of Castlegar was an estimated 539 hectares in size.