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Air through much of southern B.C. starts to thicken amid wildfires

Last Updated Jul 25, 2021 at 1:43 pm PDT

B.C. Wildfire crews work on the Mckay Creek wildfire north of Lillooet, B.C.

KAMLOOPS (NEWS 1130) — People throughout the southern half of the province, from the Fraser Canyon to the Rockies, are being warned about increased health risks over the next couple of days due to wildfire smoke.

Environment Canada issued a special weather statement Sunday morning warning of increasing wildfire smoke for the next 24 to 48 hours.

The warning covers much of the southern half of the province and notes seniors, children and those with existing lung and heart problems will be at increased risk of health problems.

The smoke is not expected to make it into the coastal areas.

However, the latest analysis shows our wildfire danger rating along the coast is now into the extreme range.

Karley Desrosiers with the B.C. Wildfire Service says while the smoke is obviously concerning for people’s health, it actually does have some benefits.

“Another effect of the smoke that we do see is that it kind of provides a bit of an insulation and ultimately brings down that fire behavior, making things a little bit more manageable for crews on the ground,” she said.

However, she adds the smoke also creates additional challenges for crews.

“Unfortunately, on the other hand, it does kind of impede the aerial support. So when it’s super smoky, the air tankers often aren’t able to fly. Also, it’s difficult to get an accurate track of the perimeter of the fire.”

Meanwhile, Desrosiers says on the coast, most if not all fires are human-caused.

“We are seeing upwards of 80 to 100 per cent on any given day the fires are human-caused,” she says adding that, whereas in the interior, they’re seeing very few human-caused fires.

Desrosiers says she is staying optimistic, hoping for more rain, but “it would take a considerable amount of rain to have an impact on fire behaviour.”

“There’s not very much rain in the forecast, and if there is, it’s generally in the northern half of the province. It’s kind of what we’ve seen over the past week.”