Satellite image shows view from space of smoke obscuring the sky over parts of southwestern B.C.

Satellite image shows view from space of smoke obscuring the sky over parts of southwestern B.C.

Smoke chokes Lower Mainland, forces air quality advisory

Particulate from wildfires at 'unprecedented' levels across Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley

An air quality advisory issued Sunday afternoon for Metro Vancouver is continuing and has been extended to the Fraser Valley as a result of smoke blowing into the region from wildfires raging across B.C.

Metro Vancouver air quality planner Geoff Doerksen said fine particulate concentrations from the smoke have hit levels never seen before across the entire Lower Mainland.

“Seeing these heavy smoke levels mix down to the ground is unprecedented for our region,” he said.

The air quality objective for fine particulate is 25 micrograms per cubic metre measured as a 24-hour rolling average.

Readings four times that level – 100 micrograms or higher – were recorded Monday morning at stations in North Vancouver, Burnaby and Vancouver, where the highest reading of 121.6 was at Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children.

Other areas with particulate levels double to triple the objective included Surrey at 81.7, Langley at 67.2, Abbotsford at 66.2 and Chilliwack at 50. Hope was less smoky at 10.

“We’ve never seen this before,” Doerksen said. “We’re exceeding our fine particulate objectives at all of our stations in Metro Vancouver as well as our Fraser Valley stations.”

Metro saw elevated particulate in 2012 – with readings briefly spiking towards but not above 100 – as a result of smoke from wildfires in Siberia. There was also more localized smoke in 2005 from a fire in Burns Bog.

There’s no single fire to blame for the smoke.

Significant amounts of smoke are coming into the Lower Mainland from fires burning west of Pemberton.

But nearby fires are also burning on Vancouver Island and on the Sunshine Coast near Sechelt.

And officials say more distant fires burning elsewhere in the B.C. Interior and beyond have also brought smoke here because of a lack of winds blowing onshore from the ocean.

“The winds have been shifting quite a bit in the last couple of days,” Doerksen said.

“Some of our computer models show smoke as far as Alberta and the Northwest Territories affecting our area.”

He said there are two smoke layers – one ground level and one higher aloft – affecting the Metro area, with upper level smoke coming from more distant sources.

The hazy conditions are expected to persist until there’s a change in the current weather pattern.

But as of Monday, hot, sunny weather is currently forecast to persist through the week.

Even worse, lightning is possible Thursday night in the Manning Park area, according to Coastal Fire Centre information officer Ellie Dupont.

The smoke blotted out the sun in much of the region and there have been reports of ash falling over a wide area.

“People from Port Hardy and Salt Spring Island and many other areas have been calling in saying there’s ashes all over their decks and their boats,” Dupont said.

Provincial officials are considering a ban on the use of ATVs and motorcycles in the backcountry to prevent more fires from being sparked.

“A lot of forest companies have shut down their private lands and put up gates,” Dupont added.

“We’re hoping with all the smoke more people will think about the fires that are burning and be more careful,” she said.

There have been 85 fires so far in the Coastal fire region this year. Fourteen new ones have been sparked since Sunday and three of them were caused by people.

The province is bringing back all firefighting crews it had previously sent to Alaska and the Northwest Territories. After a couple of days of rest, they’ll be back in action battling B.C. wildfires.

Delta has closed its Watershed Park and Delta Nature Reserve to the public in an effort to reduce the risk of a fire in those wooded areas or Burns Bog.

 

Advice on beating the smoke

People with chronic underlying medical conditions should postpone strenuous exercise until the air quality advisory is lifted, according to the regional district.

Staying indoors and in air conditioned spaces helps to reduce fine particulate exposure.

Exposure is particularly a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have diabetes, and lung or heart disease.

People suffering from the effects of the degraded air quality are advised to:

  • Stay in a cool, air-conditioned environment and reduce other indoor sources of air pollution such as smoking and vacuuuming.
  • Run an air cleaner. Some room air cleaners, such as HEPA filters, can help reduce indoor particulate levels provided they are the right size for your home and filters are changed regularly.
  • Take shelter in air-conditioned buildings that have large indoor volumes and limited entry of outdoor air.

This is the second air quality advisory issued in the region this year. An earlier one lasting two days in June was due to ground-level ozone.

Avoiding the use of gas-powered mowers and other equipment, and taking transit or carpooling instead of driving can avoid further adding to the region’s air pollution problem.

Google Earth view of wildfires currently burning across B.C. Orange circles denote new fires as of Sunday, flames show more significant ‘fires of note’ and red circles are other active fires.   Image Google Earth/BC Wildfire Management Branch

Just Posted

Terry Driver as he looked around the time of the killing of Tanya Smith and the attempted murder of Misty Cockerill in Abbotsford in October 1995. No current photos are available of Driver.
‘Abbotsford Killer’ Terry Driver denied parole, deemed ‘high risk’ to re-offend

Driver murdered Tanya Smith, 16, and seriously injured Misty Cockerill, 15, in 1995

Boats in the Fraser River launched from Barrowtown and Ft. Langley on May 12 to search for the missing fisherman. (Steve Simpson)
Boats search the Fraser River for missing Abbotsford fisherman

Anyone with ‘a boat, time, or a drone’ to help bring Damian Dutrisac home was asked to help

Mina Shahsavar is a fourth-year student in the bachelor of science in nursing program at University of the Fraser Valley and is an employed student nurse at Abbotsford Regional Hospital. (Submitted photo)
Nursing student in Abbotsford plans for career in critical care

Mina Shahsavar inspired during hospital stays as a child

The Canadian Forensic Health Corporation, made up of (left to right) Kirstin Simpson, Adrienne Fershau, Tiffany Kafka, Susan Short and Cole Bruce, are changing the game for the forensic nurse occupation. (Submitted)
Abbotsford nurses create Canadian Forensic Health Corporation

Tiffany Kafka, Susan Short, Kirstin Simpson, Cole Bruce and Adrienne Fershau teaching new generation

A pair of deer were spotted in Abbotsford on Tuesday (May 11) morning. (Submitted)
VIDEO: Pair of deer explore Abbotsford neighbourhood

Resident captures deer duo munching on foliage and then wandering off

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
VIDEO: B.C. to provide 3 days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

BC Housing minister David Eby. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
Eby jabs back against Penticton mayor’s ad urging BC Premier to intervene in shelter dispute

Eby writes that Penticton’s ‘serious’ social issues won’t improve under leadership of the mayor

What3words was first created in the U.K. in 2013 and is credited to saving the lives of outdoor enthusiasts around the world. (Contributed)
‘This is a life saving tool’: App helps paramedics find capsized canoeists near Revelstoke

What3words pinpoints the person’s phone location to a three-meter range

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 rate creeps up again, 600 new cases Wednesday

One more death, 423 people in hospital with virus

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham takes questions in the B.C. legislature in 2017. (Hansard TV)
UPDATE: B.C. will fund another year of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in schools

John Horgan government working on school meal program

Surrey RCMP is releasing sketches of a suspect in an “indecent act” at the Coyote Creek Elementary playground on April 30, 2021. Police said the suspect was clean-shaven “during some interactions” and on “other occasions had stubble outlining a goatee and mustache.” (Images: Surrey RCMP handout)
Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart addresses supporters in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says there’s no time to redo details of drug decriminalization plan

Kennedy Stewart says a federal election could see the small window of opportunity close on the city’s bid for an exemption from criminal provisions on simple possession of small amounts of drugs

Most Read