Smoke from B.C.’s wildfires could give some partial relief from this week’s wildfires.

Smoke from B.C.’s wildfires could give some partial relief from this week’s wildfires.

Wildfire smoke partially blocks sun, giving some heat relief

Both heat and smoke present health risks

Some relief to this week’s heat wave in the Lower Mainland may come from an unexpected source – the wildfires currently burning in B.C.’s Interior.

High pressure air is pushing smoke from the fires eastward toward a low-pressure system hanging over the Pacific and partially blocking out the sun in the eastern Fraser Valley, according to an Environment Canada meteorologist.

Cindy Yu said the particulate matter in the smoke is already elevated in Hope, Agassiz and Chilliwack and is likely to push farther west in the coming days.

“That has an impact on our temperatures,” she said. “The layer of smoke tends to act similar to a layer of cloud – it’s blocking the sun.”

Environment Canada has adjusted its forecasts for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday by one or two degrees, she said, and depending on how smokey the skies become in coming days, those temperatures could drop further.

But predicting the smoke concentration is difficult as that depends on humidity, winds and the behaviour of several forest fires currently burning in B.C.

The forecast still calls for temperatures to hit as high as 32 C on Tuesday and 35 C on both Thursday and Friday.

Yu said the high temperatures and particulate matter in the air could pose significant concurrent health risks, particularly for the young and elderly.

The City of Maple Ridge has a webpage that gives people tips on how to cope with the heat. It’s currently telling people to seek out air conditioned buildings if they want to cool down. If the hot weather continues, the city could open cooling centres where the public can stop for a break from the hot weather.

Elevated pollution levels are expected or occurring.

Metro Vancouver has issued an Air Quality Advisory for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley because of high concentrations of fine particulate matter that are expected to persist for several days.

This advisory is expected to continue until there is a change in the current weather.

Smoke concentrations may vary widely across the region as winds and temperatures change, and as fire behaviour changes.

Persons with chronic underlying medical conditions should postpone strenuous exercise until the advisory is lifted. Exposure is particularly a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have diabetes, and lung or heart disease. If you are experiencing symptoms such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing, follow the advice of your healthcare provider. As we are in the summer season with warm temperatures, it is also important to stay cool and hydrated. Indoor spaces with air conditioning may offer relief from both heat and air pollution.