Special air quality statement for Central, South Okanagan

A screenshot of the Tower Ranch Golf & Country Club in Kelowna shows just how smokey the valley is, after a special air quality statement was issued for the Central and South Okanagan on Sunday. Global Okanagan webcam

As Kelowna residents woke up to the sight and smell of wildfire smoke on Sunday, Environment Canada has issued another special air quality statement for parts of the region.

The statement covers the Central Okanagan as well as the South Okanagan, and it is expected that the smoke will persist in these areas over the next 24 to 48 hours.

“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,” said Environment Canada.

“Speak with your health care provider about developing a management plan for wildfire smoke events and maintaining a supply of necessary medications at home and always carrying these medications with you during wildfire season.”

The special air quality statement comes at a time when the region is experiencing continued warm, dry conditions, with a mix of high wind gusts, and that’s causing fire behaviour to increase.

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“This weekend, it was forecasted higher temperatures and lower humidities and stronger winds,” said BC Wildfire Service fire information officer, Shaelee Stearns.

“Looking at that increase in wind, coupled with the dryness that we’re seeing, it leads to that increase in fire activity.”

A new fire that was discovered west of Peachland on Saturday evening is also expected to produce large plumes of smoke – further worsening the air quality.

“It is likely going to be highly visible today for the surrounding communities, as well as travelers along Highway 97C,” said Stearns.

As of Sunday afternoon, Kelowna is sitting at a six out of 10 on the air quality index scale.

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