Smoke from massive wildfires in eastern Russia is creating hazy skies above British Columbia, and pushing ozone levels up to record levels in some parts of the province's Interior.

Experts say the haze, which has blocked mountain views and creates spectacular sunsets, is mostly from fires burning in Siberia.

Ken Reid, Metro Vancouver's superintendent of environmental sampling and monitoring, says the smoke is drifting across the Pacific at several thousand metres before being forced to lower altitudes as it approaches B.C.

Meteorologist Eric Taylor, from the B.C. Ministry of Environment, says he has never seen ozone levels as high in B.C.'s central Interior as he has seen the last few days.


Smoke, not moist air or smog, is producing the haze seen in this bird's-eye view shot of the Vancouver Yacht Club at Stanley Park. (CBC)

He says the Environment Ministry's objective is to keep ozone levels below 82 parts per billion and the level in the Williams Lake areas has reached 84 parts per billion.

Taylor says the Siberian smoke also carries a lot of other pollutants, but the ozone levels had dropped by Tuesday, and a cold front should clear out the haze over the next few days.

According to the air quality index, the air is worst in Kamloops, and the North and Central Okanagan, where it is forecast to be five out of 10 on Wednesday, partially because of a forest fire near Merritt.

Air quality advisories have been issued for Quesnel, Williams Lake, Prince George, Kamloops, Merritt, Smithers, Burns Lake and Houston in recent days and remain in effect according to the provincial website.

But the advisories for Prince George, Smithers, Burns Lake and Houston were lifted on Tuesday, according to Steve Sakiyama, an air science specialist with the Environment Ministry.

Tips to reduce your personal health risk.

  • Avoid roads with heavy vehicle traffic and areas with wood smoke.
  • Stay cool and drink plenty of water.
  • Continue to control medical conditions such as asthma, chronic respiratory disease and heart failure. If symptoms continue to be bothersome, seek medical attention.
  • Maintaining good overall health is a good way to reduce health risks resulting from short-term exposure to air pollution.

More tips for those with chronic underlying medical conditions:

  • Stay indoors, especially during midday when levels of ozone are at their highest, and reduce indoor pollution sources such as smoking and vacuuming.
  • Run an air cleaner. Some room air cleaners, such as HEPA filters, can help reduce indoor particulate levels provided they are the right size for your home and filters are changed regularly.
  • Take shelter in air-conditioned buildings that have large indoor volumes and limited entry of outdoor air.