20 locations in B.C. under air quality advisories due to wildfire smoke

At the start of last week, a large area of British Columbia was under heat warnings. This week, it's smoke.

Environment Canada has issued special air quality statements for 20 parts of the province, all due to wildfire smoke.

An interactive map from the government shows much of B.C. is burning. As of Monday morning there were 196 active fires across B.C., the majority of which are lightning-caused.

About one-third are considered out of control. 

As meteorologist David Phillips explains it, the combination of hot air, wildfires and thunderstorms is leading to more lightning flashes.

"Those are all things that help produce these pyro-cumulonimbus clouds. They're not white, puffy clouds, they're some of the worst fearing clouds on earth," he said in an interview over the weekend.

Essentially, the clouds are creating their own weather, the Environment Canada expert said. It's a trend also seen as Fort McMurray burned in 2016, in B.C. during the wildfire season of 2017, and in Australia when wildfires tore through much of the country last year.

As reinforcements from across Canada are brought in to help extinguish dozens of fires, residents of the areas impacted are being warned about wildfire smoke.

Air quality statements issued Sunday and renewed Monday morning suggest wildfire smoke will be noticeable over the next 24 to 48 hours.

Those in the affected areas, listed below, are advised to take precautions to limit their exposure, especially children, seniors and those with conditions including asthma. Precautions include reducing activity level, spending less time outdoors, drinking lots of fluids, running an air filtration device and carrying inhalers at all times. 

Symptoms residents may notice include coughing, throat irritation, headaches and shortness of breath, Environment Canada said in its smoky skies bulletins.

The B.C. government noted in an advisory that the symptoms can be similar to those associated with COVID-19, so those who aren't sure should check the self-assessment tool online, or call 811. 

The following areas are under advisories about air quality:

  • 100 Mile
  • Arrow Lakes – Slocan Lake
  • B.C. Peace River
  • Boundary
  • Chilcotin
  • East Columbia
  • East Kootenay
  • Fraser Canyon
  • Kootenay Lake
  • McGregor
  • Nicola
  • North Coast – inland sections
  • North Thompson
  • Okanagan Valley
  • Shuswap
  • Similkameen
  • South Thompson
  • West Columbia
  • West Kootenay
  • Williston

HEAT AND LIGHTNING

Additionally, some Environment Canada heat warnings remain in place.

The Boundary, Fraser Canyon, North Coast, North and South Thompson, Okanagan Valley and West Kootenay regions are still expected to see daytime highs over 30 C as the so-called "heat dome" that brought record-breaking temperatures to the area drifts east. 

Eight locations, some of which are also under heat warnings and air quality statements, are listed as at risk of severe thunderstorms.

The thunderstorm watches warn of strong wind gusts, large hail and heavy rain on Monday.

Hot and dry conditions may also lead to dry lightning in some spots.

The following areas are listed by Environment Canada as having conditions "favourable for the development of dangerous thunderstorms":

  • Arrow Lakes – Slocan Lake
  • East Kootenay
  • Kootenay Lake
  • Nicola
  • North Thompson
  • Okanagan Valley
  • Shuswap
  • South Thompson