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Wildfire smoke

Wildfire smoke is a complex mixture of different air pollutants and is an important health concern for our region. As the climate warms, the number, size and duration of wildfires are expected to increase and seriously impact air quality in British Columbia. Wildfire smoke causes episodes of the worst air quality that most people will ever experience in BC. 

How it affects you

Common symptoms from wildfire smoke exposure include:

  • lung irritation

  • eye irritation

  • runny nose

  • sore throat

  • wheezing

  • mild cough

  • and headaches.

When you need to get help

More severe symptoms, needing medical attention, include:

  • shortness of breath

  • severe cough

  • dizziness

  • chest pain

  • or heart palpitations.

People with chronic conditions such as asthma, heart disease, or diabetes, as well as pregnant women, infants, and young children are especially sensitive to health effects of wildfire smoke and should take extra care. 

Reducing exposure to wildfire smoke is the best way to protect health. Further information on the health effects of wildfire smoke, how to prepare for the season and the use of portable air cleaners for wildfire smoke can be found at the links below. 

During the summer months both wildfire smoke and heat can be a health concern. Find out more about heat, visit our heat webpage.    


Air quality notifications

Watch for these air quality notifications issued in Vancouver Coastal Health:

Within Metro Vancouver

An air quality advisory is issued by Metro Vancouver when air quality over a large portion of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Regional District temporarily deteriorates, or is expected to deteriorate soon.

Outside of Metro Vancouver

The Smoky Skies Bulletin is issued by the BCMOECC when areas of the province are being impacted or have reasonable potential to be impacted by wildfire smoke within 24 to 48 hours.

To learn more about the types of advisories that are issued when the air gets smoky, how to know if there is smoke in the air, and how to stay up to date visit the Metro Vancouver wildfire smoke and air quality page.

Air Quality Health Index

The Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) is a Canadian tool designed to help people understand how air quality can affect their health, and how they can protect themselves when air quality is poor. It uses a scale of 1-10+ to indicate potential health risk and to recommend actions to reduce risk.


The current AQHI and 1-hour PM2.5 concentrations (best measure of wildfire smoke) are reported across BC on the BC Air Quality website.

For more information on the AQHI, see the BCCDC fact sheet Wildfire Smoke and the Air Quality Health Index.

Wildfire smoke resources

SOURCE: Wildfire smoke ( )
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