As nearly two dozen new smoky skies bulletins were issued across the province by the environment ministry on Sunday (July 4), the B.C. Centre for Disease Control says there’s a few things people can do to minimize the effects of wildfire smoke.
“There have been catastrophic wildfires in western North America every year from 2016 to 2020,” said Sarah Henderson, scientific director of Environmental Health Services at BCCDC. “There is no reason to believe 2021 will be any different. Let’s start getting ready for the smoke now rather than waiting until it arrives.”
Wildfire smoke is made up of small particles and gases. Fine particulate matter, also known as PM2.5, causes the greatest risk as it can be inhaled deep into the lungs and lead to irritation and inflammation.
The BCCDC is urging people to keep rescue medications, especially for people with respiratory issues like asthma, on hand and even stocking up some extras. Individuals with chronic conditions like asthma, COPD, heart disease, or diabetes, as well as pregnant people, infants and children, and older adults are more susceptible to wildfire smoke.
When it gets smoky, the BCCDC recommends keeping windows and doors closed, using an air cleaner and if possible, purchasing a portable HEPA air filter to reduce particulate matter inside your home.
If you have masks on hand from COVID, they can also be useful to keep out some of the smoke. A well-fitted respirator (N95 or similar) or a three-layer cloth or surgical mask can work outdoors.
The environment ministry also recommends limiting outdoor activity, particularly if you feel unwell, trying to stay cool and drinking lots of water.
Anyone unsure about their condition should call 811 and anyone experiencing difficulty in breathing, chest pain or discomfort, or a severe cough, should call their health care provider, a walk-in clinic or emergency department. In cases of emergency, call 911.
The 23 new smoky skies bulletins are in place in the following communities:
- 100 Mile – Hwy 97 from 108 Mile House to Clinton, Bridge Lake and Canim
- Arrow Lakes – Slocan Lake includes Slocan, New Denver, Nakusp, and Fauquier
- B.C. South Peace River – Chetwynd, Dawson Creek, Pouce Coupe, and Tumbler Ridge
- Boundary – Grand Forks, Midway and Greenwood
- Central Okanagan – Kelowna, Lake Country, West Kelowna and Peachland
- Chilcotin – Hansville, Alexis Creek, Chilanko Forks, Tatla Lake, Nimpo Lake,
- Anahim Lake, and the southern half of Tweedsmuir Park
- East Columbia – Golden
- East Kootenay (North) – Edgwater, Inveremere, Canal Flats and Skookumchuck
- East Kootenay (South) – Kimberley, Cranbrook, Yahk, Moyie, Wasa Lake Provinical Park, Jaffray, Grasmere and Roosville
- Fraser Canyon (North) – Lillooet and Andersen lake.
- Fraser Canyon (South) Trans Canada Hwy 1 from Lytton to Choate.
- Kootenay Lake – Creston and Kaslo
- McGregor – the northern end of the Robson Valley extending from Hansard
- to Dome Creek; extends north to Monkmon Park
- Nicola – Merritt, Strump Lake, Pennask Lake, and Brookmere.
- North Okanagan – Vernon, Armstrong, Enderby, Lavington and Lumby
- North Thompson – Barriere, Clearwater and Vavenby.
- Shuswap – Salmon Arm, Sicamous, and Chase.
- Similkameen includes Princeton
- South Okanagan – Penticton, Summerland, Naramata, Keremeos, Oliver and
- Page 5 of 6
- South Thompson – Kamloops, Rayleigh, Monte Creek, Cache Creek, Spences
- Bridge and Logan Lake.
- West Columbia – Revelstoke
- West Kootenay – Nelson, Castlegar, Trail, Rossland
- Williston – McLeod Lake, Mackenzie and Williston Lake