Even the backcountry was looking rather ashen this week as wildfires continued to burn across the West Kootenay and beyond. “Smokey skies and the grey blue of Kokanee glacier created some beautiful shots,” Dan Derby said of his Sunday hike. Photo: Dan Derby

Even the backcountry was looking rather ashen this week as wildfires continued to burn across the West Kootenay and beyond. “Smokey skies and the grey blue of Kokanee glacier created some beautiful shots,” Dan Derby said of his Sunday hike. Photo: Dan Derby

Thick blanket of wildfire smoke lingers in the West Kootenay

The response to several fires in the Southeast Fire Centre (SEFC) continued this week

The response to several fires in the Southeast Fire Centre (SEFC) continued this week.

Saturday morning, a blanket of thick smoke settled over most of the fire centre region, which encompasses the entire West Kootenay. While local fires are contributing, the SEFC says the majority of the smoke is coming from large fires that are burning in western Washington, Oregon, and the south coast of British Columbia.

Atmospheric conditions are expected to be conducive to smoke staying in the region over the next 24 to 48 hours. Actual smoke levels will depend not only on atmospheric conditions, but also on smoke output from the fires south of the border, which can be difficult to predict.

Current heavy smoke is keeping fire behaviour low on fires within the region, in some cases, this is allowing ground personnel to get further ahead on direct attack strategies. However, SEFC says this increased smoke also means that aircraft operations are greatly limited, and in many cases, cannot be carried out safely.

Airtankers are unable to fly in this type of visibility and helicopter bucketing operations become even more high risk. Helicopters are now only able to fly in limited capacity to perform reconnaissance flights and bucketing operations as pockets of visibility allow.

Smoke affects each person differently, based on health, age and exposure. Smoke exposure can be particularly concerning for infants, the elderly and those who have underlying medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and lung (asthma/COPD) or heart disease as well as pregnant women.

The following can reduce the health risks associated with wildfire smoke:

Reduce outdoor activity on smoky days;

Find a clean air shelter such as large public buildings like libraries, community centres and shopping malls as they often have cleaner, cooler air than smaller buildings or the outdoors;

Consider purchasing a commercially available HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter and creating a filtered air room in your house;

Travel to areas with better air quality — conditions can greatly vary across geographic areas and elevations;

People with asthma or other chronic illness should activate their asthma or personal care plan;

Pay attention to local air quality reports and the conditions around you as smoke concentrations may vary and change over short periods and over small distances. A heavy bluish-white haze, possibly accompanied by the smell of smoke, is an indication smoke concentrations are higher than usual.

For general information about smoke and health, contact HealthLinkBC toll free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 8-1-1.

B.C. Wildfires 2022Kootenays