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Wildfires burning in Western Canada create hazy skies across B.C.'s Lower Mainland

wildfire

Hazy conditions are expected in the Lower Mainland Wednesday due to smoke from wildfires burning in British Columbia and Alberta.

No advisories are in effect in Metro Vancouver or the Fraser Valley at this time, but officials are monitoring the conditions closely.

The regions rarely see wildfire smoke in May, but experts say it could soon become a regular occurrence.

“It is concerning that we're seeing this quite early,” said Amy Thai, a senior policy analyst for Metro Vancouver’s Air Quality and Climate Change Division.

The region has experienced significant smoke impacts during six of the last eight summers—an alarming trend.

“Climate projections are indicating that we could be in for hotter, longer and drier summers. So that's an indication of what we could see in the future,” said Thai.

“There could be a greater risk for wildfires, which in turn would lead to a greater risk for wildfire smoke,” she added.

The wildfire smoke was thick enough to obstruct the view of the Burnaby skyline on Wednesday morning.

Vancouver landmarks like the Lions Gate Bridge were also hard to make out through the haze. Metro Vancouver says the region is still well below the advisory threshold.

Environment and Climate Change Canada is urging those with underlying health conditions to be cautious.

"People prone to breathing problems, this will certainly not help and you should avoid strenuous activities outside,” said Mike Gismondi, a meteorologist for the weather agency.

The haze that’s drifting into the Lower Mainland is not expected to impact air quality in the region, but there are advisories further north.

Smoke is widespread throughout the central part of the province and is extending into southeastern B.C., along the Rocky Mountains.

“The air quality health index is at 10 plus. Some places are well above 100 micrograms per cubic metre and, just to put that into perspective, the level at which we are concerned from a human health perspective is only 25 micrograms per cubic metre for a 24 hour average. So we're well above that in many communities in the interior,” said Armel Castellan, an emergency preparedness meteorologist for ECCC.

Conditions vary, but are forecast to get worse overnight.

Earlier this week, Metro Vancouver was under a ground-level ozone air quality advisory.

That was triggered by a heatwave that rolled in last weekend, but conditions improved due to cooler temperatures and favourable winds.

A ridge of high pressure is expected to draw more smoke down towards the coast Wednesday. Expect to see a thin layer of haze by the evening and into Thursday.

“As far as air quality, I think at that point, most of the smoke should be elevated. So I think it'll just appear as a thin, sort of haze in the sky rather than really affect the air quality at the surface,” said Gismondi.

The smoke is expected to clear by late Thursday or Friday.

While it’s still unseasonably hot, ECCC says a shift in the weather may come at the end of the long weekend, bringing rain.

The wet weather may help ease fires and smoke, there’s a possibility the conditions could make the flooding situation worse.

  

With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Kevin Charach

 

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