Russian smoke adds to B.C. wildfire haze

Russian smoke adds to B.C. wildfire haze

11 August 2010

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Canada — Smoke from forest fires in Russia that’s choking Moscow residents and disrupting aircraft flights there is also contributing to B.C.’s wildfire haze and air quality problems.

“Some of the smoke is coming from Russia,” fire information officer Gwen Eamer said Friday. “Smoke can travel great distances.”

She said the amount of smoke from Russian fires affecting B.C. would be relatively small.

“The vast majority of the smoke visible around the province is from our active fires in B.C.”

Some Muscovites have taken to wearing breathing masks and concerns have been raised that the Russian fires may recirculate radioactive particles from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. An air quality advisory was issued Wednesday and remains in effect for the Lower Mainland as well as other parts of B.C.

Air quality is worst in the Quesnel and Williams Lake areas. For current readings see:

More firefighters from the U.S., Alberta and Ontario have joined crews in B.C. to battle the wildfires that continue to rage across much of the province.

The 207 imported personnel include eight sustained action unit crews and 10 fire management specialists, bringing to 457 the number of out-of-province fire personnel in action.

Fifteen smoke jumpers from Washington State are also coming here. They’re being based out of the Cariboo and Prince George Fire Centres, but crews in all regions remain on high alert to the potential for new fires.

B.C. also has more than 2,000 contract and emergency firefighters already in the field. More than 400 fires are currently burning in B.C. and about 1,300 have been recorded so far this year, consuming 107,000 hectares to date.

That’s more than the average of 81,000 hectares burnt and the worst fire season since 2006 when 139,000 was lost. The province has so far spent $66.2 million – more than its $52-million fire fighting budget for 2010 – and the efforts are running at a cost of about $6 million per day.

Some of the biggest blazes are near Williams Lake and Lillooet, and are being fought by a combination of ground crews, water bombers and helicopters.

The challenging season is the result of hot dry conditions, coupled with lightning and wind.

The fire danger is rated high to extreme across 80 per cent of the province.

Although cooler conditions are coming this weekend, warm and dry weather is expected to resume next week.

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