B.C. wildfire smoke visible from space as air quality worsens
Published Monday, July 6, 2015 10:14AM PDT Last Updated Monday, July 6, 2015 5:56PM PDT
The ashy smoke blanketing B.C.’s south coast has prompted rare air quality advisories spanning from the southern part of Vancouver Island all the way into the Fraser Valley.
Metro Vancouver issued the initial advisory Sunday, warning that high concentrations of fine particulate matter were being carried into the region by some of the 184 wildfires burning across the province.
Roger Quan, air quality director for the region, said the conditions only got worse on Monday, and it’s unclear how long it could be before blue skies return.
“We don’t have a good sense of how long it’s going to last, it really very much depends on the weather conditions,” Quan said.
“Certainly a change in the wind direction would help – it would blow the smoke away from us – but there’s also the whole issue of the number of fires.”
The cloud of smoke was so large it could be seen from space, and was captured on a NASA satellite.
People with chronic medical conditions, as well as the elderly, are being advised to avoid exercising outside until the advisory is lifted.
On Monday morning, Environment Canada’s air quality index, which indicates the health risks associated with the pollutants in the air, was listed as eight out of 10 for Metro Vancouver.
By the evening, it had dropped to a four, or “moderate risk,” meaning the general population should only worry if they’re experiencing throat irritation or coughing.
Things were more serious in Squamish and Whistler, which were listed at nine and 10 out of 10, respectively. People in either city have been warned to reduce strenuous outdoor activities until the situation improves.
On Sunday, when the haze first appeared in Vancouver, many concerned residents took to social media to share pictures of glowing orange sunsets and smoggy views.
The issue also caused issues for fire departments in the region, including in Surrey, where incoming calls tripled as hundreds of people phoned in fearful that the smoke was coming from a nearby fire.
For the latest air quality index ratings, visit the Environment Canada website.
With files from CTV Vancouver’s Lisa Rossington