Environment Canada has issued a special air quality statement for the Southern Gulf Islands after wildfires continued to burn throughout the province.
The Salt Spring Emergency Program sent an alert to islanders Tuesday morning informing them that the Air Quality Health Index was forecast to reach level 7 — which indicates a high health risk — by the end of the day on Tuesday. The level has been rising since Monday morning, reaching “moderate” at around 1 p.m. on Monday. The moderate risk is for levels 4-6.
Aggravating conditions are predicted to continue into Wednesday, according to Environment Canada. With little wind in the forecast until Friday morning, the situation should continue until then. According to the B.C. Wildfire Service, 145 fires started on Saturday, with thunderstorms occurring in parts of the province. The total number of fires burning in B.C. as of Tuesday was close to 600.
At the high risk level, it is recommended that the general population consider rescheduling or reducing strenuous outdoor activity. Those considered “at risk,” which include older adults, pregnant women, children and people with pre-existing respiratory and heart conditions, should reduce their outdoor activities. According to the email sent by SSIEP, wildfire smoke is made up of gases and fine particles that can make even healthy people sick.
“Smoke can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases,” the alert read.
Keeping indoor air as clean as possible will help lessen the effects of smoke. Air conditioners and filters can help keep smoke out of the home. Public buildings such as libraries, recreation centres or shopping centres that have industrial air conditioners can also provide relief.
SSIEP will continue updating its Facebook page with the most recent reports as conditions change. Wildfire smoke is difficult to predict and can change on an hourly basis, according to the smoky skies bulletin issued by Environment Canada.