Shelagh and Ian Stevens were supposed to be in Jasper, Alta., Tuesday. Instead, the couple visiting from England was touring Kelowna.
“We’re supposed to be in Jasper but that got cancelled,” said Shelagh Stevens. “Because of the wildfires.”
The couple decided to hike Knox Mountain despite the thick smoke blanketing the Okanagan.
“What a shame we are not going to see the views,” the British tourist said.
According to Global News meteorologist Peter Quinlan, the smoke in the area is from a number of fires in the Pacific Northwest.
“Much of the smoke is coming from fires right along the international border, the ones around Manning Park and some of it is actually coming from the other fires in the northwestern United States,” Quinlan said.
The heavy smoke resulted in the air quality index hovering between five and six out of 10 on Tuesday for the Central Okanagan.
Considered a moderate risk, Interior Health (IH) is advising the younger and older population and those with medical conditions to limit time spent outdoors.
But even for the general public, IH said the advice is simple.
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“To reschedule anything you are doing or planning outdoors and move it to indoors if possible so that is the safest approach,” said Dr. Shobhit Maruti, medical health officer for IH. “We ask people to kind of apply common sense.”
Maruti said monitoring the air quality index is critical to try and avoid symptoms associated with poor air quality.
“Sore throat, mild cough,” Maruti said. “Some people may have more production of phlegm. You get the itchy or burning eyes, you may have mild shortness of breath, some people get headaches. You may get fatigue.”
According to the site IQAir, as of Tuesday afternoon, .Kelowna’s air was deemed unhealthy with an air quality index currently among some the worst in the world.
The site stated Kelowna had a rating of 162 on Tuesday. That was just below a rating of 179 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which is the the worst in the world.
The rating also showed that Kelowna’s air was worse than Lahore, Pakistan and Hanoi, Vietnam.
According to Quinlan, the smoky conditions may last for at least another couple of days.
“It looks like the smoke will stay fairly thick into the day Wednesday, potentially even into Thursday.,” he said. “A lot of it will depend on how the fires react.
“We will likely see a change in the wind direction into next week in the start of the week, so we should start to see slightly cleaner air by then even over the weekend. It will become less thick smoke and more just lingering haze I think throughout the Okanagan.”