Lower Mainland, B.C. — As well as the heat warning issued this week by Environment Canada, Metro Vancouver is monitoring conditions associated with wildfire smoke from fires burning in the interior of B.C. and Washington. Wildfire smoke models are forecasting that smoke from these fires may reach parts of Metro Vancouver on Saturday and continuing in to Sunday. A change in the weather on Monday is forecast to bring onshore winds to help clear the smoke. Smoke concentrations may vary widely across the region as winds and temperatures change, and as wildfire behaviour changes. Medical Health Officers from Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) urge the public to plan in advance to minimize their exposure to smoky air.
Although wildfire smoke is different from air pollution caused by traffic or industry, it is also harmful to human health, especially in older adults, infants, young children, pregnant women and people with chronic conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart disease.
Help keep yourself and your loved ones safe by taking the following steps:
Reduce time spent outdoors and reduce strenuous activities, because breathing harder means inhaling more smoky air.
While closing windows and doors can help to keep out smoky air, opening doors and windows can be helpful to cool indoor spaces when it is cooler outside than inside (typically overnight). For most people heat stress is a bigger health risk than smoky air. During hot and smoky conditions, it is recommended to prioritize cooling indoor spaces when possible.
Confirm you have enough of your medications, especially rescue medications for breathing.
Create a cleaner air room in your home using a portable HEPA air cleaner if possible.
Pay attention to air quality reports, especially the air quality health index.
Spend time in a home or community space that has air conditioning, which will have cleaner air. Look for designated cleaner air spaces in your community with enhanced air filtration, however, if you can't find one, most buildings with air -- including the cooling centres established for this weekend's expected heat wave (www.vch.ca/heat) will have HVAC systems that help people from experiencing irritating symptoms.
People with pre-existing medical conditions should take extra precautions during this time, including monitoring for symptoms and keeping rescue medications with them when outdoors.
Common symptoms can include discomfort when breathing, eye irritation, runny nose, sore throat, headaches, and mild cough. If you experience these symptoms, seek spaces with clean air and reduce physical activity. If you experience more severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, severe cough, dizziness, chest discomfort, heart palpitations, or wheezing, seek medical attention.
Learn more about wildfire smoke, its impact on health, and how to prepare here: http://www.bccdc.ca/about/news-stories/stories/2021/get-ready-for-wildfire-smoke. Further tips can be found at www.vch.ca/wildfiresmoke or bccdc.ca/wildfiresmoke.
Vancouver Coastal Health is responsible for the delivery of $4.1 billion in community, hospital and long-term care to more than one million people in communities including Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola. VCH also provides specialized care and services for people throughout B.C., and is the province's hub of health-care education and research.
Communications Leader, Public Health
Vancouver Coastal Health