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Harbour Air flights, university basketball games cancelled over B.C. smoke

Smoke has forced the cancellation of all Harbour Air flights on Monday afternoon. Richard Zussman/Global News

Smoke from B.C.’s wildfires has brought deteriorating air quality to Metro Vancouver and forced the cancellation of flights and even university basketball games.

The University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) basketball team has cancelled a basketball trip to Metro Vancouver because of concerns over the air.

The team was scheduled to take on the University of British Columbia, the University of the Fraser Valley and Douglas College.

Coverage of B.C. wildfires on Globalnews.ca:

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“We were very much looking forward to the trip, both from a competitive standpoint and for the opportunity to experience one of North America’s great cities,” said UCSB head coach Joe Pasternack.

“Our thoughts are with the people of British Columbia as they continue to battle the fires.”

Associate athletic director Bill Mahoney said the team went through a similar situation last season when the Thomas fire was burning near Santa Barbara, forcing the team to leave the city to practise.

At the time, it was the largest fire in California history and forced the cancellation of final exams at the university.

“The air quality was very similar to what we were told it is right now up there,” said Mahoney.

“We felt with the similar air circumstances it just wasn’t something we wanted to risk. Our medical personnel felt strongly about it just as they had last December.”

READ MORE: Largest wildfire in Californian history will burn for all of August, officials say

The games were scheduled to be played indoors in Vancouver, but that still caused concerns for the UCSB staff.

“In lots of gyms and arenas you have have vents and it sneaks in, the smoke was sneaking in. We have indoor facilities here on our campus and our doctors and athletic trainers thought it was best to leave the area,” said Mahoney.

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“It’s a thing where we didn’t want to risk our student-athletes in any way.”

READ MORE: Parts of Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley hit 10-plus ‘very high risk’ air-quality rating

The smoke has also caused issues in the air.

After numerous delays during the day, Harbour Air cancelled all remaining flights at 4 p.m. on Monday afternoon because of “limited visibility.”

Margaret McColm was one of the travellers who had her flight cancelled.

“Now I have to reschedule my plans. Change of plans,” said McColm. “Yesterday wasn’t so bad. This morning, it’s getting worse as the day goes on. I do think of the people who are close to it.”

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