British Columbia

Another hazy day in B.C. as smoke from U.S. wildfires lingers overhead

Skies over much of southern British Columbia are expected to be hazy again Wednesday as smoke from aggressive wildfires in Washington state lingers over the province.

Air quality better than Tuesday but skies still smoggy: Environment Canada

Smoke from wildfires in Washington state is pictured over Vancouver on Tuesday. The air quality is expected to be better Wednesday, but some areas of southern B.C. are still seeing a moderate risk due to the smoke. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Skies over much of southern British Columbia were hazy again Wednesday as smoke from aggressive wildfires in Washington state lingered over the province for a second straight day.

Special air quality statements remain in effect for Vancouver Island, Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and the Okanagan, as well as the Kootenay and Boundary regions. Environment Canada said air quality ratings are better than the "very high" risk level seen in some areas on Tuesday, but there will still be a fair risk on Wednesday.

"Air quality has been drastically improving. We're still at a moderate level, but at least not the high air quality index numbers that we saw yesterday afternoon," said Bobby Sekhon, a warning preparedness meteorologist with the agency.

Smoke from the U.S. wildfires left an ashy grey haze over B.C. on Tuesday:

Smoke from Washington state fires leaves haze over B.C.

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Skies were hazy over much of southern British Columbia on Tuesday after smoke from wildfires in Washington state drifted north on Labour Day Monday. 0:42

Metro Vancouver issued a new advisory for elevated ground-level ozone on Wednesday. Ground-level ozone is a colourless, odourless gas which forms just above the surface of the ground when existing pollutants react in the sunlight. It is not emitted into the air, but can irritate the respiratory tract and eyes.

Ground-level ozone levels are typically highest in the mid-afternoon and early evening on a hot day.

Older adults, pregnant woman, infants, children and people with pre-existing health conditions — as well as those with respiratory infections like COVID-19 — are "more likely to experience health effects from smoke exposure," Environment Canada says. 

Sekhon said people with risk factors should drink plenty of water and avoid strenuous activity outside.

A beach in West Kelowna was draped in smoke on Tuesday. Smoke from wildfires in Washington State, which drifted north on Labour Day Monday, is being held in place by a high-pressure weather system. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

The bulletin noted some of the smoke seen in the Kootenays might be coming from the region's Doctor Creek and Talbott Creek wildfires, as well as from fires in the U.S.

The skies in southern B.C. were visibly smoky for much of the day Tuesday. Residents woke to the smell and taste of smoke in the air, with a grey haze blotting out what should have been a blue sky. By the end of the day, a series of air quality advisories were in effect.

Risk levels were highest in the Greater Victoria and Okanagan areas, reaching the 10+ rating, signalling a "very high" risk of impact to health.

Under a smoke-filled sky, volunteer Shawn Daley directs traffic into the parking lot an evacuation center at the Oregon State Fairgrounds, which was crowded with hundreds of cars, pickup trucks, and campers of evacuees, in Salem, Ore. on Tuesday. (Andrew Selsky/The Associated Press)

High heat and gusting winds kicked up wildfires in Washington state over the long weekend, burning hundreds of thousands of acres in a matter of days. Winds drew the smoke into B.C. on Monday and a high-pressure weather system is holding the smog in place.

Carol Connolly, a public information officer with the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in the U.S., said she expects the smoke to linger over parts of B.C. for at least the next few days.

Wildfires have also raged unchecked in Oregon and California, destroying hundreds of buildings and forcing thousands to flee their homes.

Unseasonally hot

Unusually hot temperatures are also expected in southern B.C. for the rest of the week. Special weather statements said it will be 5-10 C warmer than seasonal averages.

"We're going to see temperatures between the mid-20s into the low 30s for Metro Vancouver into Friday," said Sekhon.

Even warmer weather is expected inland, like areas of the Fraser Valley and the Okanagan.

"It's a warm stretch into September, which doesn't happen all the time," Sekhon said.

With files from CBC's The Early Edition

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