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No End in Sight

September 9th, 2017

Air quality grows worse as smoke blankets the Okanagan

 

The wildfires of British Columbia continue to prove their power as they envelop Kelowna in a cloud of smoke. The most serious year in history for wildfire is continuing at a steady pace. The state of emergency for the province has been extended for a fourth time this summer, this time extending through September 15.

On Thursday September 7, UBCO sent out an email to inform students that the BC Ministry of Health and the Interior Health Authority, have issued a smoky skies advisory for the Okanagan region.

This smoky skies advisory means quite a few things, most notably, that the levels of smoke may have, or have already, reached levels that are concerning for human health. Currently in Kelowna, the Air Quality Index is at a 7, meaning that the region is at high health risk. The University and the Government of Canada recommend avoiding particularly strenuous activity, and remind all that those who are at the most danger for exposure are infants, the elderly, and any persons that have other medical issues such as diabetes, lung or heart disease.

 

“Currently in Kelowna, the Air Quality Index is at a 7, meaning that the region is at high health risk”

 

The Environment of Canada and the B.C. Ministry of Environment recommend those who do have difficulty breathing should remain indoors, in cool, well ventilated areas. This includes all buildings on campus, as UBCO reminded students that “all air coming into Okanagan campus buildings through air intakes is filtered.” They do ask that all doors and windows leading to outside remain closed, so that the air-handling systems can do their jobs properly.

This smoky skies advisory is a new advisory that has been created by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy and Interior Health Authority, and differs from the Wildfire Smoke Advisories. This smoky skies advisory was put into place to improve communication in regards to wildfire smoke. According to Environment Canada, the smoky skies advisory is triggered by “satellite information, smoke transport models, photographs of visual air quality, first-hand observations from the area, in addition to concentrations of fine particulate matter recorded at local air quality stations.” This is a change from the Wildfire Smoke Advisories as it does not trigger any action under by municipal bylaws. The Wildfire Advisories also are put into effect based on the measure of fine particulate matter, as it is measured over a 24-hour period.

For now, this smoky skies advisory is in place for the Okanagan region until further notice. Until there is a marked change in the current weather, it is important to stay up to date on warnings and notices put out by UBCO and the Government of Canada.

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