Air quality plunges across B.C. as wildfire smoke blankets province

Smokier, hazy air is expected to blanket much of the province today as nearly 600 wildfires continue to rage across British Columbia.

Metro Vancouver announced on Sunday it would continue a previous air quality advisory because of the high levels of fine particulate matter, which doctors say can be absorbed into the bloodstream and lungs, causing exhaustion and confusion.

Monday’s forecast for air quality health risk in Metro Vancouver ranges from an 8 to a 10+, which is the highest rating on Environment Canada’s scale.

The smoke has suppressed temperatures across B.C. by five to seven degrees, but the fire danger is still high to extreme.

“High pressure is shifting slightly today and the flow is actually directing the smoke from east to west toward the South Coast today and tomorrow for very low visibility,” Wagstaffe said.

A change in the weather is expected late ON Wednesday, she said, when a cold front will sweep across the province, bringing cooler temperatures, scattered showers, wind gusts and the potential for thunderstorms.

Huge clouds of choking smoke from the wildfires have prompted air quality advisories for much of Western Canada and forced the cancellations of two triathlons in B.C.’s Okanagan region on Sunday.

The fires burning near the Nadina, Shovel and Tesla lakes in the Bulkley-Nechako region remain the largest in the province at more than 1,600 square kilometers combined.

B.C. Wildfire Service crews were able to make some headway over the weekend, as weather conditions allowed them to burn fuel in the path of the infernos.

Meanwhile, hundreds of kilometers to the southeast, 4,500 residents of Kimberley, B.C., have been on an evacuation alert since Thursday as smoke continues to descend on the East Kootenay region.