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Wildfires

Forest fires can be an inevitable part of living in British Columbia. The following information is provided to reduce your personal health risk.  

Air Quality

Island Health works with the Ministry of Environment to monitor air quality impacts due to wildfires in the region.  For the most up to date conditions and a list of active advisories, please visit: www.bcairquality.ca

Tips to reduce your personal risk:

Smoke can affect each person differently, based on their health, age and exposure.

  • People with heart or lung conditions may be more sensitive to the effects of smoke and should watch for any change in symptoms that may be due to smoke exposure. If you notice any symptoms, take steps to reduce your exposure to smoke and if necessary see a physician. People with symptoms should go to their health care provider, walk-in clinic or emergency department depending on severity of symptoms.
  • Residents with asthma, COPD or other chronic illness should activate their asthma, respiratory or personal care plan.
  • Use common sense regarding outdoor physical activity – if your breathing becomes difficult or uncomfortable, stop or reduce the activity.
  • Stay cool and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Smoke levels may be lower indoors, however levels of smoke particles will still be increased. If you stay indoors, be aware of your symptoms.
  • Commercially available HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters can further reduce poor indoor air quality near the device.
  • Reduce indoor pollution sources such as smoking or burning other materials.
  • Consider visiting a location like a shopping mall with cooler filtered air. Keep in mind that staying indoors may help you stay cool and provide some relief from the smoke, however many air conditioning systems do not filter the air or improve indoor air quality.
  • You may be able to reduce your exposure to smoke by moving to cleaner air. Conditions can vary dramatically by area and elevation.
  • Pay attention to local air quality reports; air quality may be poor even though smoke may not be visible.
  • Maintaining good overall health is a good way to prevent health effects resulting from short-term exposure to air pollution.


Food Safety and Water Quality

BC Wildfire Service uses fire retardant to reduce the size and impact wildfires can have on our forests and communities. Most fire retardants currently in use are formulated from a product called Phos-chek.

A product called Firetrol has been used in the past and is now being phased out.  Phos-chek and Firetrol contain low environmental toxicity however precautions are recommended for water supplies and food crops affected by fire retardants.