Air quality in Chilliwack and across the Fraser Valley this week took a deep dive due to smoke, and worsened as the week wore on.
It may not be the worst air quality in the world but it was among the worst in part because of the local topography with mountains that effectively trap the smoke.
The air quality health index (AQHI) hit the unhealthy rating of 10+ on Tuesday, and it carried over to Wednesday, which means it poses a “very high risk” at the upper limit of the one-to-10+ index.
The ‘special air quality’ advisory issued from Environment Canada was continued for the Eastern Fraser Valley, and a ‘smoky skies bulletin’ warned that the smoke from wildfires in B.C. and Washington State would not clear out until the weather changed substantially.
Day after day the choke-inducing smoke that billowed into the region hid Chilliwack’s characteristic mountain views, and settled in with a stagnant blanket of air covering the entire region.
Wildfire smoke is unhealthy because of the small particulate matter, known as PM2.5, that can settle deep in the lungs.
Words like “apocalyptic” and “eerie” were used on social media to describe local views where the hazy smoke appeared to hang in the air. Residents complained of sore throats, irritated lungs, coughing and other respiratory symptoms.
Most people are looking to Friday for relief when the forecasted rain is slated to arrive, and it will mark day 96 of drought in Chilliwack.
Smoke concentrations varied across the Lower Mainland in the last few days but Chilliwack, and the Eastern Fraser Valley took the brunt of it because of proximity to the fires south of the border.
Chilliwack Division of Family Practice was advising folks to seek medical attention if the terrible smoky air this week caused respiratory distress.
“With the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) rating ‘very high’ again this week, try to stay indoors in places with cool filtered air - especially infants, elderly, if you are pregnant, and those with underlying medical conditions. And remember to drink extra fluids,” according to the Division.
“Seek medical attention immediately if you or someone around you is experiencing shortness of breath, severe cough, dizziness, chest pain or heart palpitations due to smoky conditions.”
View the current and forecast provincial AQHI on air quality maps by going to https://www.env.gov.bc.ca/epd/bcairquality/readings/find-stations-map.html
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