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Smoky conditions to continue in B.C.’s Southern Interior

A view of Kelowna, and the smoky skies above the city, on Saturday morning. Global News

The smoky conditions in B.C.’s Southern Interior could worsen this weekend, with smoke from American wildfires projected to blow north.

According to the BC Wildfire Service, there are three wildfires burning in Washington state that are close to the border.

Read more: B.C. wildfire officials ask travellers to avoid certain areas as next 72 hours are ‘critical’

One is 11 kilometres south of Christina Lake, a second fire is 24 km south of Rock Creek and a third is 29 km south of Grand Forks.

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“Winds are anticipated to shift Sunday, which may result in smoke from these fires pushing northward,” said BC Wildfire, adding it is closely monitoring the situation and provided the following details about the blazes:

  • The Nine Mile fire is 56 hectares and is located south of Christina Lake; 107 personnel have been assigned to the fire.
  • The Spur fire is 4,152 hectares and is south of Rock Creek; 211 personnel are assigned to the fire.
  • The Bulldog Mountain fire is located southeast of Grand Forks and is estimated to be 809 hectares; 175 personnel are assigned to the fire.

BC Wildfire said those wildfires are posing no threats to Canadian communities at this time, noting winds are also pushing the fires away from the border.

As of Saturday morning, the Okanagan was already at 10-plus on the province’s air quality health index (AQHI).

The province’s AQHI scale is divided into four categories: Low health risk (1-3), moderate health risk (4-6), high health risk (7-10) and very high health risk (10-plus).

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Also at 10-plus were the Fraser Valley and Kamloops regions. Prince George was also at a 10, but is expected to drop into low.

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In contrast to BC Wildfire’s forecast, the AQHI charts are projecting levels to drop in the moderate range (6) for the Central Okanagan.

For Friday in the Central Okanagan, the day’s stats began in the moderate range (at 5) shortly after 12 a.m., but quickly spiked to 10-plus by 10 a.m., and stayed there for the remainder of the day.

Saturday’s stats started at 10-plus at 12 a.m., then fell to 10 at 4 a.m., but quickly jumped back to 10-plus by 9 a.m.

For the North Okanagan, the region has remained steady at 10-plus since Friday at 5 a.m. Sunday’s forecast is calling for a slight decrease to high health risk (8).

Data is not available for the South Okanagan until a new air quality monitoring station is established.

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Tourists asked to leave B.C. Interior communities as residents prepare for wildfires – Aug 13, 2021

However, PM2.5 data is available for the region, with Friday’s numbers peaking at 132.8 and Saturday at 96.4 as of 9 a.m.

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The province describes PM2.5 as being fine particles with a diameter of 2.5 microns (millionths of a metre).

For the Central Okanagan, the readings were 156 on Friday and 103.8 on Saturday as of 9 a.m.

For the North Okanagan, the readings were 211.3 on Friday — the worst in B.C. that day — and 141 on Saturday as of 9 a.m.

To confuse matters, projections from the website Firesmoke.ca show increased smoke and PM2.5 levels for Sunday.

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But whether smoke levels rise or fall on Saturday, Environment Canada re-issued its ongoing smoky skies bulletin for the Okanagan.

“While conditions remain stable, they are variable with patchy smoke related to active fires,” said Environment Canada.

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“During a wildfire, smoke conditions can change quickly over short distances and can vary considerably hour-by-hour.”

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