Open burning restrictions are continuing for high smoke sensitivity zones across the province. That includes the Okanagan.
The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy in collaboration with provincial public health partners is continuing restrictions until June 15. Pursuant to the Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation, no new fires may be initiated and no additional material may be added to existing fires. These restrictions do not apply to campfires.
A map of affected areas is shown in yellow in Figure 1 and a high resolution image can be accessed on the provincial Interactive Venting Index webpage. Real-time air quality observations and information regarding the health effects of air pollution can be found at https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/air-land-water/air.
“As cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in B.C. continue to increase, the BC Centre for Disease Control recommends implementing measures that help reduce excess air pollution in populated airsheds across the province,” said Dan Bings, with the Ministry. “There is strong evidence that exposure to air pollution increases susceptibility to respiratory viral infections by decreasing immune function.”
This means that:
• Deterioration in air quality may lead to more COVID-19 infections overall,
• Deterioration in air quality may lead to more cases of severe COVID-19 infections, adding further demand on our healthcare system, and
• Improvements to air quality may help to protect the whole population from COVID-19 and its potentially severe effects.
Evidence suggests that air pollution from combustion sources is most strongly associated with increased risk of viral infection, particularly vehicle emissions and biomass burning. At this time, the BCCDC recommends that open burning of biomass fuels be restricted in areas with high or moderate risk of population exposure to the resulting smoke.
“While the focus should remain on physical distancing from others to prevent the spread of infection and reduce the number of cases, keeping our air as clean as possible will also help to protect the population during this difficult period,” said Bings.
The restrictions will be evaluated daily and the areas in which they apply may grow or diminish accordingly.