Wildfire smoke continues to choke Western Canada

More than 560 wildfires continue to burn in British Columbia, causing air quality concerns across the province and into Alberta and Saskatchewan.

On Tuesday evening, all of B.C. was facing “moderate” to “very high” health risks from the poor air quality, according to Environment Canada. Wednesday is expected to bring “high” health risks to most of the province, including Victoria, Kamloops, Prince George, and Vancouver. The situation isn’t expected to improve until at least Thursday when rain showers are forecast to arrive.

In Alberta, the air quality is expected to get worse on Wednesday. Environment Canada expects the health risks in Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray and Red Deer and other parts of the province to rise from “moderate” to “high.”

Many float plane flights along the B.C. coast were delayed or canceled due to the smoke-filled air. The reduced visibility also posed a problem for crews working to bring the wildfires under control.

Forrest Tower, an information officer with the BC Wildfire Service, said smoke preventing aerial reconnaissance and firefighting operations were the “biggest struggle” for crews on the front lines.

“It seems to be that we’re going to be smoked in for another two or three days here,” Tower told on Tuesday. The Shovel Lake fire is considered to be the highest priority of the more than 560 wildfires burning in B.C. as of Tuesday morning.

Tower said Monday had been a “really successful day” for firefighters working at Shovel Lake and the nearby Island Lake fire, despite the challenges posed by smoke and ash in the sky.

“They’re both holding within containment lines,” he said.

Forecasts say winds will pick up speed in the area Tuesday and Wednesday.
Tower said strengthening winds were a concern, but firefighters believed they would be able to keep both fires from spreading regardless.