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Southern B.C. under special air quality warnings as wildfire smoke billows

Click to play video: 'Canada wildfires: How will smoke affect health of Canadians?'
Canada wildfires: How will smoke affect health of Canadians?
WATCH: Experts say wildfire smoke can have dire effects on people with existing health conditions, children and the elderly — but ultimately affecting everyone. Katherine Ludwig takes a look – Aug 19, 2023

The vast majority of southern B.C. from Vancouver Island to East Kootenay is under special air quality statements.

This is due to more than 380 active wildfires burning across the province, including many in the Interior.

Along with Vancouver Island and East Kootenay, the regions under the alerts are Sunshine Coast, Sea-to-Sky Whistler, Fraser Canyon, Nicola, North and South Thompson, Okanagan, Arrow Lakes, Boundary, West and East Columbia, Lakes District, Elk Valley, Shuswap and Similkameen.

Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley was added to the list of regions affected late Saturday afternoon.

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Wind conditions are expected to shift several “several times” in the next 24 hours, according to Environment Canada.

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The shifting winds, which can lead to increased fire activity, can change smoke conditions rapidly.

“Wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone’s health even at low concentrations. Everyone can take action to reduce their exposure to wildfire smoke,” Environment Canada staff said in an alert.

“People with lung disease (such as asthma) or heart disease, older adults, children, pregnant people, and people who work outdoors are at higher risk of experiencing health effects caused by wildfire smoke.

“Take a break from the smoke at a location in your community where you can find clean, cool air.”

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Travel to B.C.’s southeast, Central Interior restricted due to wildfires

Community centres, libraries and other communal infrastructure such as malls are great places to go to get out of the smoke, according to the province.

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According to the provincial air quality index, the Okanagan, Castlegar and Cranbrook are all over 10+, which signifies a very high health risk.

“Avoid strenuous activities outdoors. Children and the elderly should also avoid outdoor physical exertion,” the province explains online.

The next update for air quality is expected on Monday.

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