Air quality has greatly improved in most areas of B.C. since smoke blanketed the province last weekend, but wildfires continue to burn and hazy skies remain.
Environment Canada first issued air quality advisories for the southern third of the province, northeast region and eastern Vancouver Island on Saturday (Sept. 10). Then, the weather agency’s health index judged several parts of B.C. at a high or very high risk, based on levels of fine particulate matter in the air.
As of Thursday morning, all regions are considered to be at a low risk, according to Environment Canada. This is forecast to increase to a moderate risk throughout the day, before returning to a low risk Friday.
Still, Environment Canada is keeping its air quality advisories in place and says shifting smoke could quickly change conditions in any region. If there is smoke present, the weather agency says the health risk is high. This could occur around Castlegar, the central and south Okanagan, Cranbrook, Sparwood, the Eastern Fraser Valley and Fort St. John on Thursday.
The primary fires causing the hazy conditions continue to be the Battleship Mountain wildfire near Hudson’s Hope, the Flood Falls Trail wildfire near Hope and the Heather Lake wildfire in Manning Park. Ones in Washington State and Oregon have also been contributing.
The Battleship Mountain blaze is the largest in B.C. at 29,614 hectares. It’s been steadily growing since a lightning strike started it on Aug. 30. Since then, evacuation orders have been issued for hundreds of properties in the community of Hudson’s Hope and areas of the surrounding Peace River Regional District.
Just southwest of Hope, the Flood Falls Trail has been burning since Sept. 8. It’s believed to be human-caused and has grown to 545 hectares. Evacuations were ordered for a dozen properties over the weekend, but were rescinded on Tuesday (Sept. 13). Cooler weather and forecast rain are helping conditions there.
A little further southeast, about 6,000 hectares of the Heather Lake wildfire are burning in Manning Park. Another 4,900 hectares are burning on the United States side of the border. The multi-country blaze broke out Aug. 21 and has since triggered an evacuation alert for the provincial park. Similar to Flood Falls Trail, cooler weather is expected to aid fire crews.
Across B.C., there are 188 wildfires actively burning, 61 of which are considered out of control. In total this season, there have been 1,522 wildfires, which have collectively burned 105,051 hectares of ground.