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Shift in winds could clear up smoky air around Metro Vancouver

Last Updated Aug 22, 2018 at 1:00 pm PST

FILE PHOTO: Haze covers parts of Metro Vancouver. (Photo taken July 6th, 2015) (Twitter via @bethyscotty)

While the air is smoky in Metro Vancouver, the winds may shift

Hundreds of wildfires continue to contribute to poor air quality around Metro Vancouver

METRO VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – You may still be struggling to breathe or see properly in this poor air quality, but that may soon change.

The air has about 10 times as much fine particulate matter as usual, according to Francis Ries who monitors air quality for Metro Vancouver. This means that those with lung problems should be especially careful.

But as a burst of air comes from the west, there’s hope it will bring some relief. Ries says it may take some time for the smoke clear, even with the western winds projected from the Pacific Ocean starting Thursday. This means, for now, the air quality advisory remains in effect.

“The key thing we’re watching is whether or not the weather patterns that are forecast do play out, as expected right now,” Ries says. “We’re also, obviously, watching fire activity closely. A lot of the impacts we’ve been experiencing lately have been due to fires very distant from us, in Northern B.C. We need to make sure that we don’t lose sight of the fact that relatively local or regional smoke may have impacts on us.”

He is also keeping an eye on ground level ozone, which he says is more so associated with air quality advisories in summer months. In combination with the fine particles from the hundreds of fires burning throughout B.C., ground level ozone can cause respiratory irritation for people with asthma and other lung conditions. Ries says it can negatively affect the breathing of those people, especially later in day as the ozone descends from higher altitudes.

“There is a particular period of the day where people need to be most careful about staying indoors, avoiding strenuous activity,” says Ries, adding that those with respiratory issues should keep their medication close-by, just in case.

Crews still battling hundreds of wildfires

The B.C. Wildfire Service says 563 wildfires are blazing in the province and 55 are fires that have the potential to threaten people or property.

Fire information officer Kyla Fraser says crews are looking toward the weekend when patchy showers are forecast, although the rain could come with lightning and the chance of new fire starts.

She says the areas of most concern remain the southeastern corner of the province and the northwest, where residents of the village of Lower Post were ordered to leave their homes late yesterday and report to an evacuation centre in Watson Lake, Yukon.

Evacuation orders have also been issued by the Cariboo Regional District for several properties near separate fires around Gotchen Lake and Whitton Lake, while the wildfire service says controlled burns are planned today west of Keremeos and those flames will be highly visible.