Smoke from deadly wildfires puts Kamloops on air-quality alert

Smoke from deadly wildfires puts Kamloops on air-quality alert

08 July 2012

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  Canada-– The impact of deadly wildfires in the U.S. and Russia has become so widespread that it’s reached Kamloops in the form of a smoky haze.

The haze, which is jeopardizing air quality and led to a wildfire smoke advisory for Kamloops on Saturday, is expected to remain until Friday.

Meanwhile, the hot and dry conditions are expected to create a fire hazard in the region. At press time on Sunday, the Kamloops Fire Centre had a low fire-hazard rating.

“But I’m sure we’ll be seeing that crawl into moderate with all the hot weather we’ve been having,” said Kayla Pepper of the Kamloops Fire Information Centre on Sunday.

In the U.S., dozens of fires have ravaged nine western states since late June, destroying 600 homes, killing six people and forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes.

Siberia has also been in the midst of a natural catastrophe. In mid-June, a state of emergency was declared as hundreds of wildfires covered 8,331 hectares, according to the Siberian Federal District Forestry Department. This weekend, eight firefighters were killed after parachuting into the Siberian region of Tuva to battle a blaze that has destroyed 500 hectares so far.

Those blazes have sent clouds of smoke across 1,300 kilometres to Kamloops, Merritt, Lillooet, Pemberton and the Cariboo region over the weekend, according to B.C.’s Wildfire Management Branch.

The smoke spread to B.C. over the weekend, leading to concerned calls to the B.C. Wildfire Management Branch. Fire information officer Fionna Tollovsen said personnel received reports on Friday afternoon of haze from Kamloops, Merritt, Lillooet, Vancouver Island and even the Cariboo region.

A birddog plane flew around Williams Lake, Gold Bridge and Lillooet on Friday night to ensure no wildfires were burning.

Satellite imagery confirmed the source of the smoke to be Colorado and Siberia.

It won’t dissipate quickly because a temperature inversion of warm air overtop cold is trapping the smoke rather than allowing it to diffuse into the troposphere.

Provincial air-quality meteorologist Ralph Adams said smoke building up around Kamloops and carbon concentrations will vary depending on winds and temperatures.

The provincial air quality health index showed Kamloops was on the high end of moderate risk levels on Saturday – the highest level in the province. That risk began lowering by Sunday, but wildfire officials predict the smoky conditions will remain in the Interior throughout the week.

A Ministry of Environment smoke advisory for Kamloops issued Saturday advised residents to avoid strenuous outdoor activities. People are also adviced to contact a health-care provider if experiencing difficulty breathing, chest pain and sudden onset of cough or irritation of airways.

Exposure is particularly a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, and lung or heart disease.

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