August 2, 2017 1:56 pm
Updated: August 2, 2017 10:56 pm

Air quality advisory, heat wave warning continues for B.C. south coast

Wed, Aug 2: There are growing concerns about air quality in southwestern B.C. due to smoke from forest fires. As John Hua reports, the air quality index in the Fraser Valley has hit nine out of 10.

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People are urged to take extra caution as officials extended the air quality advisory Wednesday.

The advisory continues for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley because of high concentrations of fine particulate matter that are expected to persist for several days.

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Smokes from the wildfires burning in B.C.’s interior reached the south coast’s ground level  Tuesday morning, which caused hazy skies in the region.

This development, along with an expected record-setting heat wave in the province, prompts officials to remind the public to be responsible and take the necessary measures to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.

“There’s some warning signs of serious health-related illness which is actually [a] life threatening condition, and that is body temperature above 40 and people start to have neurological signs so they get dizzy, have difficulty walking, and difficulty communicating,” said  Reka Gustafson, medical health officer at Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH).

In order to avoid this, VCH said to limit or avoid heavy activities outside and if you experience symptoms like difficulty in breathing, chest pain or discomfort, or sudden onset of cough or irritation of the airways, to get to your doctor.

With the expected high temperatures, here are some tips to stay cool.

  • Use common sense regarding outdoor physical activity – if your breathing becomes difficult or uncomfortable, stop or reduce the activity.
  • Stay cool and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Smoke levels may be lower indoors, however levels of smoke particles will still be increased. If you stay indoors, be aware of your symptoms.
  • Consider visiting a location like a shopping mall with cooler filtered air. Keep in mind that staying indoors may help you stay cool and provide some relief from the smoke, however many air conditioning systems do not filter the air or improve indoor air quality.
  • Reduce indoor pollution sources such as smoking or burning other materials.
  • You may be able to reduce your exposure to smoke by moving to cleaner air. Conditions can vary dramatically by area and elevation.
  • Residents with asthma or other chronic illness should activate their asthma or personal care plan.

The City of Vancouver has also ramped up support to deal with extreme heat by adding temporary water fountains, opening cooling stations, and installing misting stations in public parks.

“This is an unusual combination for Vancouver… a combination of weather and smoke from the forest fire, which is particularly troubling this week,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson on Tuesday.

WATCH: Here’s how work crews handle the heat

Temporary water fountains are installed at the following intersections:

  • Ontario Street and East 1st Avenue
  • Commercial Drive and East Broadway
  • Granville Street and West 70th Avenue East
  • Hastings Street and Heatley Street
  • Robson Street and Bidwell Street

Vancouver misting stations are located in the following parks:

  • Thornton Park
  • Emery Barnes Park
  • Oppenheimer Park
  • Andy Livingstone Park

The city’s housing operations also have a hot weather support plan for tenants. If lobbies or cool areas are not available, tenants will be encouraged to head to nearby cooling centres, water pools or spray parks.

With the current weather conditions and parties happening this season, officials remind the public to drink moderately and responsibly. Gustafson said that alcohol may cloud people’s judgments, which may cause them to not take the necessary precautions in an event of an  emergency.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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