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Air advisory remains in effect for B.C. due to dense smoke from U.S. wildfires

Last Updated Sep 13, 2020 at 2:07 pm PDT

FILE -- Vancouver had the worst air quality in the world as of Saturday morning, Sept. 12 2020. (Courtesy Kyle Donaldson @donaldsonkyle)

VANCOUVER – A thick mass of smoke is still moving through B.C. with an air quality advisory in effect because of wildfire smoke wafting up from the United States.

Air quality planner for Metro Vancouver, Geoff Doerksen, says although the smoke will begin clearing late Sunday and Monday, there will be localized smoke concentrations that will vary across the region.

Doerksen adds people with chronic medical conditions or infections like COVID-19 should postpone or reduce their time outdoors until the advisory is lifted.

“We’re certainly concerned about fine particulate matter because particles get inhaled deeply into the lungs, people with chronic medical conditions or infections such as COVID-19 should postpone or reduce outdoor physical activity until the advisory is lifted, especially if breathing feels uncomfortable.”

The particular concern is for people with underlying conditions, pregnant women and infants, children and older adults.

Smoky conditions are expected to be more frequent as climate projections indicate hotter, drier and longer summers, increasing the likelihood of more wildfires.

“Scientific studies have linked worsening wildfire smoke and a changing climate. A study conducted by the Pacific Climate Impact Consortium found that human-induced climate change, greatly influence the likelihood of extreme temperature as wildfire risk, and a large area burned in 2017. So certainly keeping an eye on our emissions is of concern.”

Metro Vancouver had designed a climate 2050 strategy which aims to make the region “more resilient to the impacts of climate change.”

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Some regions like southern Vancouver Island have been dealing with smoke for days but a bulletin says the smoke is likely to move east and north as the weekend progresses with the most widespread impacts.

Areas further north like Prince George may get smoke passing through the region, but at higher altitudes.

B.C.’s air quality index shows high health risks on southern Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland with the risk decreasing to low moving north and east.

Crews are fighting dozens of wildfires in the northwestern United States and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is calling them “climate fires.”

The death toll from the wildfires raging in the U.S. West Coast stands at least 33, with authorities saying nearly all of the dozens of people reported missing after a devastating blaze in southern Oregon have been accounted for.

– With files from Kareem Gouda and The Associated Press