EDITORIAL: Smoke blankets the Okanagan

For the first time since 2003, the government has issued a provincial state of emergency

For the first time since the summer of 2003, the government has issued a provincial state of emergency.

Wildfires rage across the province, towns are evacuating, and thick smoke blankets the Cariboo, Thompson, Shuswap, Okanagan, Similkameen, Fraser Canyon and Nicola regional districts.

Currently, there is no foreseeable surcease from the relentless hot, dry and frankly wildfire favourable weather. And while we are in a state of relative ease compared to our neighbouring districts, Vernon is not entirely in the clear.

Both Vernon and Kelowna’s air quality stations are reporting an Air Quality Health Index rating of seven out of 10, which is considered a high health risk. Health officials recommend avoiding strenuous outdoor activities, and children, the elderly and those afflicted by underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, lung or heart disease and asthma should be cognizant and watch for symptoms such as coughing, difficulty breathing and chest pain.

Smoke concentrations may vary dramatically over short periods and over small distances, and as such, the warning remains in place until further notice.

But exposure to the smoke-filled air is not the only cause for concern.

A Vernon condominium complex caught fire Monday night, forcing 29 residents from their homes. In wake of the fire, Vernon Fire Rescue Services deputy chief Scott Hemstad urged everyone to have an emergency escape plan in place.

“Remember, you need two ways out,” Hemstad said.

Until the provincial state of emergency is lifted and B.C. is granted relief, have a worst-case-scenario plan ready.

And let’s hope you never have to use it.