Smoke and haze from a large bog on fire in Delta, B.C., descended on Whatcom County Tuesday, raising concerns about air quality but affecting very few people.
“We’re not yet seeing an impact from air quality for the general population,” said Jeff Hegedus, environmental health supervisor with the Whatcom County Health Department. “At this point, we would like to remind people with existing respiratory sensitivities to limit their exposure to the smoke.”
More than 80 people battled the fire that broke out in Burns Bog on Sunday afternoon. Twenty more firefighters are expected today to help fight the blaze, which has affected more than 500 acres of the bog.
BURNS BOG FIRE DATA
SIZE OF THE FIRE: More than 500 acres affected as of Tuesday night.
SIZE OF THE BOG: More than 5,900 acres. Most of it is protected as a conservation area.
CONTENTS OF THE BOG: Home to more than 28 species of mammals, 175 species of birds and at least 257 plant species. Twenty-four ecosystems are recognized within the bog.
Don Waite Vancouver Province Burns Bog sends plumes of smoke over greater Vancouver, B.C., on Monday. The south arm of the Fraser River can be seen in the background.
Light surface winds in British Columbia allowed the smoke to rise into the higher altitude winds and move south, said Jim Prange, fire weather program leader with the National Weather Service in Seattle.
“What we’ve got is a northwest flow and the smoke is going up and coming down on that flow,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “We need to switch that flow in order to get it back to the west and keep it back in British Columbia.”
Prange said the winds should shift some time today. This may only temporarily help, though. Canadian fire officials have warned that putting the fire out and cleaning it up may take up to three weeks, because it’s burning deep in the peat.
The Health Department will continue to monitor the air quality and report problems to the public, Hegedus said. Unless the air quality drops significantly, only people with asthma, heart or lung conditions, bronchitis and other respiratory problems are being told to stay inside and close their windows.
Some Whatcom County schools kept kids with asthma inside Tuesday, but many students didn’t even notice.
Deb Cummings, the principal of Blaine Elementary School, said Canadian officials assured them there were no hazardous toxins in the smoke. “We haven’t had anyone complain,” Cummings said. She checked with a group of fourth-graders, one of whom said the smoke “smelled like beef jerky.”
By Kira Millage, The Bellingham Herald, Reach Kira Millage at kira.millage@ bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2266. Jack Keating, David Carrigg and Lena Sin of The Province newspaper in Vancouver, B.C., contributed to this article.