Wildfire smoke forecast to arrive in Lower Mainland on Saturday

With wildfires continuing to burn across the province health experts are sounding the alarm about wildfire smoke pollution -- especially in the southern interior. As Andrea Macpherson reports, deteriorating air quality is impacting residents -- and the crews working around the clock to save homes and critical infrastructure.

Smoke from the more than 240 wildfires burning across British Columbia is forecast to flow into the Lower Mainland on Saturday.

The latest modelling from Firesmoke.ca showed light smoke arriving in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley on Saturday morning, with denser haze rolling in Saturday afternoon.

As of mid-afternoon, Metro Vancouver’s air monitoring showed the region’s air quality health index at between two and three, at the higher end of “low risk.”

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Metro Vancouver lifted an air quality advisory for ground-level ozone on Saturday, but said it was still monitoring the potential arrival of wildfire smoke on the south coast.

Vancouver Coastal Health issued its own bulletin, warning of particular risks to seniors, children, pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions.

“Common symptoms can include discomfort when breathing, eye irritation, runny nose, sore throat, headaches, and mild cough. If you experience these symptoms, seek spaces with clean air and reduce physical activity,” it said.

“If you experience more severe symptoms, such as shortness of breath, severe cough, dizziness, chest discomfort, heart palpitations, or wheezing, seek medical attention.”

Closing windows can help keep smoke out, but officials say residents should prioritize keeping their homes cool and open them if the temperature is cooler outside than inside the home.

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The health authority is advising people to spend more time indoors and to avoid strenuous activities.

It is also advising people to look at options like portable HEPA air cleaners, or to seek out cooled indoor spaces with cleaner air, such as community centres.

The air quality forecast, though, remains far milder than what much of British Columbia’s interior has been grappling with for weeks.

On Saturday, the Okanagan, Kamloops, Williams Lake and Castlegar all showed air quality health index ratings of 10+, or “very high.”

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