Terrible air quality is still blanketing the Fraser Valley and Metro Vancouver due to smoke wafting in from both B.C. and U.S. wildfires – but a clearing trend is on the horizon.
A special air quality statement issued Monday (Sept. 12) states that smoke is causing “poor air quality and reducing visibility,” across the region, and the AQ advisory of Sept. 10 continued due to high concentrations of fine particulate matter.
“This evening and into tomorrow a clearing trend is expected to start near the coast and move inland.”
But it depends on wind patterns.
Wildfires burning southeast of Chilliwack and Hope, including two fires near Manning Park (Heather Lake) and Hope (Flood Falls Trail), are producing the smoke affecting many communities. Winds from the south are bringing up smoke from wildfires burning in Washington and Oregon State as well.
“Today, it is expected that air quality in some areas of the region may further degrade while other areas may improve,” the advisory said. “Smoke concentrations may vary widely across the region as winds and temperatures change, and as wildfire behaviour changes.”
The Flood Falls Trail wildfire was estimated at 458 hectares as of Sunday morning, and closed Highway 1 eastbound between Chilliwack and Hope.
Fine particulate matter, also known as PM2.5, refers to airborne solid or liquid droplets with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres or less. PM2.5 can easily penetrate indoors because of its small size.
Due to the risks, the recommendations are to postpone or reduce outdoor physical activity while PM2.5 concentrations are high, especially if breathing feels uncomfortable.
Exposure to PM2.5 is particularly a concern for people with underlying conditions such as lung disease, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and/or diabetes; individuals with respiratory infections; pregnant women and infants; children; older adults; and outdoor workers (e.g. construction and agricultural workers). Individuals who are socially marginalized may also be at elevated risk (e.g. people who are experiencing homelessness or are underhoused).
Indoor spaces with HEPA air filtration and air conditioning can offer relief from both air pollution and heat, according to Environment Canada.
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