Air quality advisory lifted in Metro Vancouver as officials warn of difficult wildfire season ahead
Metro Vancouver has ended its air quality advisory, citing favourable winds and cooler temperatures.
Given the presence of two out-of-control wildfires near Harrison Lake, however, there is the potential for smoke to return, the regional district said in a statement Thursday.
The advisory, which warned of fine particulate matter and ground-level ozone, had been in place since Wednesday, and future advisories may be needed depending on winds, temperatures and wildfire behaviour in the coming days.
Much of Canada and the United States is still grappling with poor air quality from what experts say could be one of the most devastating years for wildfires on record.
As of Thursday in B.C., there were 82 wildfires burning across the province, and a total of 382 wildfires had sparked since April 1.
Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness Bowinn Ma told reporters at a news conference that the 520,520 hectares burned so far this year already exceeds the total amount burned in 16 of the last 20 wildfire seasons in the province.
Ninety-nine per cent of the burned area has been in the Prince George Fire Centre in the northeast of the province.
The Donnie Creek wildfire complex north of Fort St. John is responsible for more than half of the total burned area, estimated at 310,805 hectares as of Thursday.
So far this year, 240 of B.C.’s wildfires have been human caused and 132 have been started by lighting. Most of the destruction has been the result of naturally caused fires, which have burned 444,079 hectares.
AIR QUALITY CONCERNS
In Metro Vancouver, the air quality risk has been reduced to low in most areas, a significant improvement from Wednesday, when skylines and landmarks were hard to make out.
However, summer hasn’t even officially started yet and experts warn this could be an indication of what the next few months will look like.
“We’ve seen a forecast that we can expect to see smoke right through the summer. So it will be really important for people and for the health-care system to monitor the wildfire smoke that we’re being exposed to and to respond to that as it happens,” said Dr. Michael Schwandt, medical health officer with Vancouver Coastal Health.
Health officials are urging people to start investing in clean air filters for their homes.
”An N95 mask does reduce some of the particles that are in smoke," said Dr. Emily Newhouse, a medical health officer for Fraser Health.
"It doesn't get rid of everything though, there are gasses that still pass through an N95 that you'll still be exposed to if you're outside during a smoke event.”
Schwandt said people most at risk from wildfire smoke are those with existing heart and lung conditions as well as seniors, young children and pregnant women.
He said B.C. has data that shows wildfire smoke exposure results in more “people seeing family physicians for asthma-related visits (and) more people filling prescriptions in the pharmacy to treat asthma.”
Ma urged all B.C. residents to "take 20 minutes" to make a plan for what they will do if they have to evacuate their homes this wildfire season.
"Now is the time to understand the hazards that you face in the regions that you live in, and to prepare yourselves, your family, your home and community for any potential fires," she said.
Kimberly Kelly, a fire information officer for the Coastal Fire Centre of the BC WIldfire Service, said the two fires near Harrison Lake have been showing "aggressive fire behaviour."
"We've had the driest May on record," Kelly said. "That means that our fire danger rating is moderate to high and in some places extreme within the Coastal Fire Centre.”
Right now, the outlook for June is more of the same, according to Matt MacDonald, lead fire weather forecaster for the BC Wildfire Service.
Speaking at the afternoon news conference with Ma, MacDonald said drought conditions in much of the province last October set the stage for this year's wildfire season, and the abnormally hot and dry May continued to heighten the risk.
MacDonald explained that the snowpack at high elevations in much of the province melted away weeks earlier than is typical, leaving more fuel exposed for potential lightning strikes to cause wildfires.
More above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation in June is expected to continue to dry out those fuels and increase fire risk, MacDonald said.
Compounding all of this risk is the fact that the hot, dry weather appears likely to persist across Canada, leading to wildfire challenges in other provinces as well, and limiting the availability of out-of-province resources to help fight B.C. fires.
"Nationally, we tend to leverage resource-sharing agreements with our partner agencies," said Neal McLoughlin, superintendent of predictive services for the BC Wildfire Service.
"All agencies across Canada are busy this year, and there is a real shortage of resources for sharing. This could be a year where we have to really dig deep and use the resources we have here in B.C. to address our situation."
CAMPFIRE BANS IN PLACE
The Vancouver Park Board has banned all barbecues in city parks and beaches due to the dry conditions Thursday.
The fire danger rating across much of B.C. is now high or extreme, triggering a campfire ban for most of the province.
The penalty for those caught breaking the fire ban is a $1,000 ticket.
If you’re convicted in court, you could be fined up to $100,000 or face one year in jail.
If you contribute to a wildfire you could be on the hook for the firefighting costs.
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Last living suspect in 1996 drive-by shooting of Tupac Shakur indicted in Las Vegas on murder charge
A man who prosecutors say ordered the 1996 killing of rapper Tupac Shakur was arrested and charged with murder Friday in a long-awaited breakthrough in one of hip-hop's most enduring mysteries.
A bail bondsman charged alongside former President Donald Trump and 17 others in the Georgia election interference case pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges on Friday, becoming the first defendant to accept a plea deal with prosecutors.
A new study finds walking an additional 3,000 steps per day can significantly reduce high blood pressure in older adults with hypertension.
The country's top soldier and outside experts say that finding almost $1 billion in savings in the Department of National Defence budget will affect the Armed Forces' capabilities, although the defence minister insisted Friday the budget is not being cut.
Economists warn both Canada's economy and individual Canadians could suffer from impacts of a U.S. government shutdown, and that those impacts will deepen and broaden the longer it lasts.
A Scarborough family said they were shocked to get a notice from the City of Toronto that the artificial grass in their backyard, including a putting green, will have to be ripped out.
For the past five days, vehicles laden with refugees have poured into Armenia, fleeing from the crumbling enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in neighbouring Azerbaijan. In a special report for CTVNews.ca, journalist Neil Hauer recounts what it's like on the ground in Armenia.
A New Jersey man deliberately drove his SUV into a home and the offices of a municipal police department last week, authorities announced Friday.
Tech holding company Tiny Ltd. says it's buying a majority stake in movie review platform Letterboxd. Victoria, B.C.-based Tiny has not shared what it will pay for the 60 per cent stake it will take in the film diary and rating website.
B.C.'s Green Party leader is dismayed Alberta's fossil fuel “war room” is targeting Nanaimo for phasing out natural gas hookups.
The return of a memorial totem pole to a remote community in northwestern B.C. nearly 100 years after it was taken allows the Nisga'a Nation to reach back for old values of respect, helping to chart a new path of reconciliation, the nation's president says.
What started as a routine walk with her dog in the northeast Calgary community of Rundle on Sept. 17 quickly turned into an ordeal Aman Lamoureux will never forget.
A committee of experts tasked by the City of Calgary with providing downtown public safety recommendations is now beginning work on finding solutions to address addictions issues, housing concerns and crime.
Cathy Brodner got some unexpected visitors Thursday morning that were a little more photogenic than your run-of-the-mill backyard invaders.
From a new garden on the Alberta Legislature Grounds to several displays of drumming and dancing – people in Edmonton and area began Friday more than a dozen events for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
A 39-year-old man who was recently released from jail with court-issued conditions was the subject of a public warning by Edmonton police on Friday.
Premier Danielle Smith says the first steps are coming this fall to reconfigure Alberta’s health delivery system — a plan the Opposition calls a recipe for more chaos from a government fresh off turning lab testing into a debacle.
An orphaned burgundy brick house sitting in the shadow of a midtown Toronto tower – one of the area’s last hold-out properties – sold for more than one million over asking this month.
The mayor of Pickering is speaking out against city councillor Lisa Robinson (Ward 1), who recently made headlines for calling herself a “modern-day slave” after having her pay suspended for one month due to bullying allegations.
One person was arrested Friday as hundreds of protestors marched through the streets of Montreal to denounce the government’s response to climate change.
It's been a long wait, but six Ukrainian students who arrived in Quebec City to start school last month are finally in a classroom. The teenagers have been waiting for the education ministry to issue their eligibility certificates so they can study in English as they requested.
An Indigenous daycare and schools in Verdun took part in a walk Friday morning to mark the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
Manitoba finance officials are reporting a $270 million surplus for the end of the 2022-2023 fiscal year.
A Winnipeg woman has pleaded guilty to handing out cannabis gummies to kids last Halloween.
A political expert says a new NDP candidate could change things in the Liberal stronghold of River Heights.
A Prince Albert Police Service (PAPS) officer is facing charges in connection with two separate incidents.
A Saskatoon woman is recovering after a harrowing incident in front of a city library in September.
Saskatchewan's premier spent part of the morning in Saskatoon promoting a pre-existing affordability program that aims to keep children active.
Amid cries of support and criticism, the Saskatchewan government stays committed to expediting its plans to force a pronoun policy into law.
Two men have now been charged with attempted murder after a stabbing incident involving a machete in Moose Jaw, police said.
A Regina high school volleyball tournament is educating student athletes on Indigenous culture and reconciliation.
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey made a solemn apology today to survivors of residential schools in southern Labrador.
Joshua Ghiringhelli is still be waiting to be fully licensed as a pharmacist in Nova Scotia almost a year after he moved to the picturesque rural community of Boutillier’s Point.
Every homeless person has a different story, no matter where they come from, and that is no different for Dianne Munnings from the Bahamas.
Suspect flees from police after uttering death threats, prompts 'code silver' at University Hospital
It was a tense night for police and hospital workers after a Norfolk County man who fled from police after uttering death threats attended a London, Ont. hospital, prompting a code silver situation.
'Your tip could make a difference': Owen Sound police, OPP renew appeal to public for information in restaurateur's homicide
Nearly six weeks after a violent assault claimed the life of a beloved restauranteur in Owen Sound, Ont., police are once again appealing to the public for information that could help crack the case.
Sarnia police have arrested a man after a violent attack nearly three months ago left an 81-year-old senior with 'life-altering injuries.'
A worker who was found unconscious Friday at the Cote Gold Mine site in Gogama has died, officials said Friday.
The man at the centre of a massive police search this week in Bracebridge has been found dead.
The North Bay Regional Health Centre said Friday that a critical shortage of emergency room doctors means longer wait times for less urgent cases.
'Still so many questions': Arrest in Joshua Tarnue murder case brings mixed emotions for family, friends
The family and friends of Joshua Tarnue are left with questions following new police developments in the murder case.
A number of events are being organized around Waterloo Region to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Saturday Sept. 30.
A major development in a local infrastructure project has been unveiled by the province.