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Smoke billowing into Fraser Valley from wildfires prompts calls to Chilliwack Fire Department

‘It has been an unseasonably early start to wildfire season,’ says Chilliwack Fire Department official
Visible layer of wildfire smoke drifting into Chilliwack photographed from Chilliwack Mountain on June 6, 2023. (Julie Hiscock photo)

Wildfire smoke started billowing into Chilliwack this week prompting some residents to call the Chilliwack Fire Department to report the smoke.

“We’ve been socked in with smoke the last couple of nights,” said Chris Wilson, assistant fire chief with the Chilliwack Fire Department.

That influx of drifting smoke led to an “increased call volume” into the fire department, but no local fires were found, aside from a few smouldering sites put out that were not of further concern, Wilson said.

However there has been an uptick in wildfire risk in various parts of B.C. in early June.

“It has been an unseasonably early start to the wildfire season,” Wilson said, adding that citizens can be vigilant by reporting any wildfires or unattended campfires they see by dialing *5555 from a cell phone or toll-free at 1-800-663-5555.

Rain is in the forecast and a major shift in the weather is what it will take to clear the smoke.

Five years ago, it would take until August to see any significant wildfire smoke in the air.

But smoky skies were noticeable after two B.C. wildfires north of Harrison Hot Springs, and west of Chehalis River were declared “out of control” on June 5, but there is also a fire burning south of the border in Washington State.

A layer of drifting smoke could be seen from Chilliwack Mountain, in a photo taken the night of June 6 by Julie Hiscock, and in other citizen photos of the region.

Several residents took to Facebook to say how strong the smoke smell was in Chilliwack.

There has been no air quality advisory issued from Environment Canada, but the region can be seen blanketed in fire smoke in the BlueSky Canada forecasts on the website, which are based on computer modelling and offer forecasts of PM2.5 particulates at ground level.

Fraser Health’s Wildfire Smoke web page note that some people are more affected by smoke than others.

“Wildfires are becoming more frequent and more severe as the climate changes, resulting in poorer quality air that can last for weeks or more,” Fraser Health officials wrote.

“This can result in short-term health effects and longer lasting health effects.

“Reducing exposure to wildfire smoke is the best way to protect your health and those around you.

So it’s important for folks with chronic medical conditions to stay in air-conditioned spaces, or places with cooler filtered air.

“Stay cool and drink plenty of fluids.

“Use common sense for outdoor physical activity. If your breathing becomes difficult or uncomfortable, stop or reduce the activity.

When air quality is poor, they say, people should consider rescheduling outdoor events and sports. Everyone should use high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters.

If you are working outdoors, use an N95 respirator. It is recommended to use one that has been properly fitted by occupational health and safety professionals.

RELATED: Last October saw smoky skies in Chilliwack

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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