Smoke blankets Central Okanagan, air quality plummets

Smoke from the Joe Rich fire is leaving the taste of ash in the air around Kelowna

A thick blanket of smoke lingers over Kelowna as fire crews battle the Joe Rich wildfire for the second day.

Stagnant air overnight kept all the smoke within the Central Okanagan and hanging over the Kelowna area prompting an dramatic change in the air quality.

The air in the Kelowna/Central Okanagan area is now rated as an eight out of 1o or a ‘high health risk’.

The South Okanagan is currently considered a seven out of 10, while the North Okanagan has not yet been hit with the smoke – sitting at a perfect one of out 10.

Smoke concentrations will vary widely as winds, fire behaviour and temperatures change.

Avoid strenuous outdoor activities. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, contact your health care provider: difficulty in breathing, chest pain or discomfort, and sudden onset of cough or irritation of airways. Exposure is particularly a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, and lung or heart disease.

  • In most fire seasons, there are occasions when smoke from forest fires is carried into our region.
  • Under these conditions, smoke concentrations may vary dramatically over short periods and over small distances.
  • Those members of the public who are sensitive to the effects of smoke should monitor their symptoms and, if necessary, take steps to reduce their exposure to smoke.
  • During the fire season, a heavy bluish-white haze, possibly accompanied by the smell of smoke, are clear indications that smoke concentrations are higher than usual. The concentrations and air quality health index measured at an air station many kilometres away may not be a good indication of local smoke conditions.

Individuals may experience symptoms such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath. Children, seniors, and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk.

Stay inside if you have breathing difficulties. Find an indoor place that’s cool and ventilated. Using an air conditioner that cools and filters air may help. If you open the windows you may let in more polluted air. If your home isn’t air-conditioned, consider going to a public place (library, shopping mall, recreation centre) that is air-conditioned.

For more information on current air quality, see: www.bcairquality.ca.

Visit www.airhealth.ca for information on how to reduce your health risk and your personal contribution to pollution levels, as well as for current and forecast AQHI values.