When smoke gets in your eyes

Hazy skies, poor air quality causes coughs, sore throats

Smoke choked the air, and some of the residents in 100 Mile House this week, with folks suffering sore throats and coughs on July 15. Ministry of Environment air quality meteorologists suspect much of the smoke is coming from a 2,200-hectare fire burning west of Quesnel.

Smoke choked the air, and some of the residents in 100 Mile House this week, with folks suffering sore throats and coughs on July 15. Ministry of Environment air quality meteorologists suspect much of the smoke is coming from a 2,200-hectare fire burning west of Quesnel.

People in 100 Mile House began experiencing a haze of thick smoke on July 15, and it is causing some sore throats, coughs, headaches – and concerns.

Ralph Adams, B.C. Ministry of Environment’s air quality meteorologist for the Thompson and Cariboo regions, says it is getting more difficult to judge where the smoke is coming from.

“The current situation is that Prince George has very, very high levels of smoke, Quesnel has high levels, while levels in Williams Lake are rising rapidly and levels in Kamloops and Okanagan are not rising.

“We are under a generally southern flow; it’s coming up from the south-western deserts of the United States.”

While the information he saw on July 14 indicated the heavy haze was coming from the fires in eastern Washington State, he notes this should show increases in Kamloops that simply aren’t happening any more.

“It is rather odd that we they are somehow missing Kamloops, so I think … what we are seeing is a combination of events.”

However, Adams adds the large flow is generally stemming from the south to the southwest through the Southern Interior, but as you move north, it tends to move in a curve toward a westerly flow.

The Euchiniko Lakes wildfire located approximately 120 kilometres west of Quesnel was estimated at 2,200 hectares in size, as of July 15.

This is probably fuelling some of the smoke in 100 Mile House, he notes.

“At this point, we don’t really know, but in all likelihood it’s the same smoke that’s affecting Williams Lake. I think what’s happening is some of the smoke from that fire in Quesnel is drifting and Soda Creek is coming downwards and clipping 100 Mile.”

At any given time, there is always the possibility of another fire that they don’t yet know about, as it takes at least 12 hours for the BC Forest Service websites to post new fires of note, he adds.

“We have large fires burning in Washington … we saw it come over Kamloops, but it didn’t come down to ground level. We have a very large fire burning west of Quesnel, we have the Soda Creek fire that’s still burning – so in general, we are surrounded by fires.

“Which ever direction the flow is, we are getting smoke from one of them, and depending how close you are to it, you will get different [air quality] values.”

While only larger centres typically rate an air quality monitoring station and since folks here are complaining of sore throats, coughs and headaches, this should be considered as a health warning, Adams explains.

“The rule of thumb is if you have heavy haze and you can smell smoke, you are probably in values where an advisory would be issued if they could monitor it. There is not a monitor in 100 Mile House.”

He notes the Air Quality Health Index values depend on particulate matter (PM2.5), ozone and nitrogen dioxide.

“What is moving around rapidly now is the PM2.5, so usually in these conditions the PM2.5 and air quality index can get out of sync because one [rating measurement] is three hours and one is 24 hours.”

Recommendations on how to protect your health in times of heavy smoke is online at

www.interiorhealth.ca/YourEnvironment/EmergencyPreparedness/Pages/Forest-Fires.aspx.

 

 

 

100 Mile House Free Press