Where there's smoke there's fire...several hundred kilometers away

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
August 4th, 2010

 If you like all-day sunsets or the coastal feeling of being shrouded in a fog, then the last few days may have been right up your alley. Rossland has been seeing and breathing the effects of the wildfire season that is now in full swing around the province, with smoke wafting through our valley during the early part of the week.


Most of the smoke has been coming from two fire areas. According to the South East Fire Centre, wind patterns seem to be both bringing down the smoke from the Kamloops, Williams Lake area fires as well as pulling up the smoke from a series of fires in Washington State’s Cascade Mountains near Wenatchee.


The area around Kamloops, Williams Lake, and much of the Okanagan has been placed on an air quality advisory by Environment Canada since early this week. Rossland and the Kootenays are not under an air quality advisory; however, this is not due to us having any better air quality but rather simply that the Kootenays haven’t yet had the proper types of monitoring stations installed yet.


The program implemented by Environment Canada has been deploying these monitoring stations for a few years now, first in the Okanagan and then more recently in the Lower Mainland. These stations will be coming to the Kootenays but are not yet installed. Without proper readings, an air quality advisory cannot be issued.


Dr. Rob Parker of Interior Health suggests that people with heart or lung condtions play it by ear and use common sense, taking as necessary.


“When the particulate matter goes up in the air due to smoke from forest fires, it can affect people, especially if they have a preexisting lung conditions like asthma, bronchitis, emphysema or heart conditions. Smoke particles are so fine, some of them, that when they get breathed in can cause inflammation in the blood vessels. Anybody with concerns of that nature should reduce their time outside and exercising outside while there is smoke in the air. It’s best they reduce that activity for a few days until the smoke levels go down. If they get more symptoms they should check in with their family doctor.”


With a continued stretch of hot and dry weather ahead, the provincial forest fire season shows no sign of slowing down. While we are not near record levels in BC for wildfires, local fire-fighters and the South East Fire Centre have been busy as of late.


“The Centre has responded to 152 fires in our region since April 1st,” explained Erin Cathdrall, an information officer with the South East Fire Centre. “45 of those fires were human caused. Lately there have been a total of seven fires since Friday July 30th. Of these fires, five were lightning caused.”


Currently, the nearest fire to Rossland in BC is in the Beaverfoot area in the Columbia Mountains. Burning in an old cut block, the fire was discovered on July 28th but poses no threat to humans or homes. 24 firefighters from our region are battling that blaze at the moment.


While campers rejoice that our region is that last remaining in BC without a campfire ban in place, the South East Fire Centre wants to “re-enforce the idea of people being very careful with their campfires. Campfires are not currently banned in this region but it’s critical that crews are available to respond to naturally occurring wildfires. We don’t want our resources tied up in needless man-made fires.”

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