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Lower Mainland not immune to B.C. wildfire risk, open burning ban in effect

Last Updated Jun 23, 2021 at 10:32 pm PDT

The Eleven Mile Creek fire is burning southeast of Hope and is considered out of control. (Courtesy BC Wildfire Service)

It doesn't take much for faraway wildfires to affect Metro Vancouver air quality

An open burning ban is in effect for the Lower Mainland, the Sea to Sky, Vancouver Island

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — This weekend could be the hottest ever seen in the Pacific Northwest, and with more wildfires being sparked — people who live and work on the Lower Mainland are being put on notice.

Jim Mandeville with First Onsite Property Restoration says it doesn’t take much for faraway wildfires to affect Metro Vancouver air quality.

“All it takes is a bit of a change in wind direction and we can be dealing with it right in the city. What we’ve seen recently is that the sort of smoke spread from these wildfires potentially happening as far away as California can have a really substantive and detrimental impact on the air quality,” he explains.

“Certainly what we’re hearing every year is more and more businesses are aware of the threat, more and more businesses are becoming more prepared and trying to stay take steps to protect their businesses and protect your employees. Also what we’re seeing is that the science is telling us that, that this smoke is really bad for people — as one would expect.”

Last year, Metro Vancouver’s air quality was ranked among the worst in the world due to smoke coming from fires raging on the West Coast of the U.S.

RELATED: Metro Vancouver air quality among worst in the world due to wildfire haze

One in 10 businesses in the province are affected by fires, and three in 10 are worried about future wildfires, according to a survey done by First Onsite.

Mandeville says with our climate continuing to evolve, we need to be prepared to protect our homes, businesses, and populations against the impacts of heat and wildfire smoke.

“We’re trying to spread the word to business owners and homeowners that this is something that’s important. This is something that we need to be prepared for and we need to be able to protect our population,” he says.

“The more we talk about it and the more we work together, the more prepared we can be for this sort of inevitability.”

Some employers are taking steps to protect workers, including allowing for flexible work schedules on poor air quality days and installing additional air filtration equipment.

“There are a lot of things that can be done for relatively minimal cost and sort of invasiveness that can go a long way to making the environment much safer for everyone involved and much more comfortable,” Mandeville says.

Meantime, the BC Wildfire Service has banned Category 2 and 3 open burning for the Coastal Region — which includes the Lower Mainland, the Sea to Sky, and Vancouver Island.

Open fires are mainly used on farms to burn material or grass, but the ban also applies to fireworks, sky lanterns, binary exploding targets, burn barrels or burn cages and air curtain burners.

Fire Information Officer, Julia Caranchi says campfires are still allowed, but the warm weather is prompting a warning.

“We’ve gone from a low fire risk from a week ago, to moderate to high risk in some parts of the fire centre and that’s happened in just over a week. The fire risk is telling us the forests are getting dry, so we just want people to know how dry it is out there and to be really cautious.”

RELATED: Wildfire burns near Hope as crews make progress in Lytton

Caranchi says the best thing you can do to prevent an accident is to be prepared.

“People need to be extremely careful when they’re having campfires,” she said. “I’m talking about having that fireguard around your campfire, never leave your campfire unattended, to make sure you have tools and at least 8 litres of water on hand to put it out.”

“Hot and dry weather by itself doesn’t cause fires, for fires to happen you need an ignition right? “We haven’t had any lightning-caused fires so far this season, so all of our fires this year have been human-caused, and every single human-caused fire is preventable.”

Haida Gwaii is exempt from the ban.