Environment Canada has issued 25 air quality alerts for British Columbia, amid raging wildfires and a provincial state of emergency.
The federal weather agency is warning that the smoke will last another 24 to 48 hours. Even in low concentrations, wildfire smoke can be harmful to human health.
The alerts cover virtually all of Vancouver Island south of Port McNeill, all of the Sunshine Coast apart from Howe Sound, the entire Lower Mainland, and all of the Fraser Valley and Fraser Canyon.
It also includes the Lakes District, Stuart-Nechako and North Thompson regions, as well everything south of that in B.C.’s Interior, the Okanagan, and the Kootenays.
Much of the Cariboo region and northern B.C. appeared clear as of Monday morning.
The south, central and north Okanagan had the highest levels of air quality risk in the province Monday. With smoke factored in, Castlegar, the central and eastern Fraser Valley, Cranbrook, Kamloops, Sparwood and Williams Lake join that list.
Areas with moderate air quality risk include Whistler, Squamish, Quesnel, Prince George, and Metro Vancouver, according to Environment Canada.
People with pre-existing conditions, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, heart disease, diabetes or respiratory infections are most at risk, along with pregnant people, children and older adults.
To protect themselves from wildfire smoke, the province encourages residents to seal doors and windows, consider indoor air filtration, use a multi-layered face mask, and refrain from strenuous outdoor activities.
Kyle Howe, an air quality analyst for the Metro Vancouver Regional District, said Metro Vancouver has been “pretty lucky” with its level of smoke to date. The smoke is expected to continue hovering in the region throughout the day, however.
“There is some indication in some of the models that we use that there should be an improvement overnight into tomorrow, but we do have a lot of smoke in the region so it is going to take time for that to clear out, especially in the eastern portions of the region like Chilliwack and Hope,” Howe said.
The best thing one can do to protect the lungs in such conditions is to limit time spent outdoors, he added.