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Air quality posing a challenge for backcountry rescue crews

Last Updated Aug 23, 2018 at 4:07 pm PDT

A haze over Metro Vancouver on Aug. 13, 2018 (Hana Mae Nassar, NEWS 1130 Photo)

METRO VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As you can probably tell, that air quality advisory in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley is still in place.

Things are expected to be a little clearer today. But that relief is short-lived, according to Environment Canada.

The agency says rising temperatures and more wildfire smoke from parts of B.C. and Washington state this weekend are expected to choke our region once again.

Those at particular risk are the very young, the very old, those with diabetes and lung or heart disease. If you have an underlying health condition, you’re advised to avoid strenuous exercise until the advisory is over.

B.C. wildfires are also blamed for air quality advisories that are in place from here to Manitoba.

Air quality worse at higher elevations

The air quality has been bad across the Lower Mainland but it also gets worse the further up you go on the mountains and across the local backcountry. It’s such a problem that it’s actually affecting North Shore Rescue’s ability to respond to some calls because of low visibility.

North Shore Rescue Team Leader Mike Danks says they’ve also cut back on their training exercises. “We’re limiting our exposure so we’re not doing as many hikes in our spare time and we certainly hope other people are going to do the same.”

He explains it’s also slowing down their response times in some cases, especially for ground crews. “If we do have a call, we’ll still respond but it’s certainly something that we have noted and we really want to exposure to as well.”

Danks says if you struggle with hiking under normal conditions, you definitely need to avoid it until things clear up. “They’re not bringing enough water or food with them. They’re getting dehydrated. So, it’s certainly something we’re seeing and the air quality is only going to increase the risk of that.”

He says they’ve also seen a spike in heat-exhaustion related calls and he expects that to continue for a while.

NSR is already on track to set another record for calls this year and Danks says the weather isn’t helping matters.