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B.C. wildfire smoke forces flight cancellations in Interior

Last Updated Aug 2, 2021 at 4:03 pm PDT

FILE PHOTO (Courtesy Kelowna International Airport)
Summary

Flights in and out of Kelowna International Airport were cancelled due to a growing wildfire

The White Rock Lake wildfire is burning north of Vernon, and smoke has filled nearby areas

B.C.'s Interior remains under an air quality advisory with many areas experiencing heavy smoke

KELOWNA — A growing wildfire has led to major flight cancellations in the Interior.

Kelowna International Airport cancelled more than two dozen flights Sunday night through to Monday afternoon due to the White Rock Lake wildfire.

The 32,000-hectare fire is burning northwest of Vernon, and the smoke is causing unsafe flying conditions for pilots.

The fire smoke recently expanded significantly to the east in the last 24 hours.

The cancellations have impacted departures and arrivals from Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, and more due to the no-fly zone.

“We are expecting for all flights today [Monday] to be cancelled,” said Phillip Elchitz, senior airport operations manager.

He says there has been a lot of anxiety and the airport is working with passengers to get them an alternative route to get home.

“Anyone who does have a flight booked today [Monday] or tomorrow [Tuesday] to make sure they check the status of their flight,” he said.

Last week, wildfire smoke forced the Penticton airport to cancel some of its flights, leading many to find other options.

B.C. is in the midst of another devastating wildfire season, with more than 250 fires burning, and many residents forced out of their homes.

 

Those fires are also impacting people outside of the Interior, as the smoke has made its way east to the prairies, as well as west to B.C.’s South Coast.

Vancouver has been under an air quality advisory throughout the B.C. Day long weekend. Sometimes known as “Rain-couver,” the city has gone 46 days in a row without significant rainfall.

There is some hope that the conditions for the wildfire fight will improve, with some rain in the forecast for later in the week.

“We are looking forward to some of that rain hitting those areas of concern, in areas where there are current large active wildfires,” said Erika Berg, BC Wildfire Service Fire Information Officer.

Recent record-breaking temperatures have lead to timber dry conditions across B.C., and drought warnings for several areas.

Over the weekend, some areas did see a bit of rain, leading to some optimism.

With files from Jonathan Szekeres