The province has placed open burning restrictions in some areas of northeast B.C. to limit the potential spread of COVID-19, but controlled burns for Site C will continue.
A Ministry of Environment order restricts any new open burning in Fort St. John, Dawson Creek, Hudson's Hope, and Chetwynd, which have been deemed high smoke sensitivity zones. The order is in effect until April 15, and no new materials can be added to existing fires.
"There is strong evidence that exposure to air pollution increases susceptibility to respiratory viral infections by decreasing immune function," the ministry said.
"This means that deterioration in air quality may lead to more COVID-19 infections overall, deterioration in air quality may lead to more cases of severe COVID-19 infections, adding further demand to our healthcare system, and improvements to air quality may help to protect the whole population from COVID-19 and its potentially severe effects."
BC Hydro says its controlled burning program will continue with modifications.
“It’s our understanding that there are no restrictions from the BC Wildfire Service,” said spokesperson Dave Conway.
"We will be continuing our controlled burning activity with modifications, following today’s burning restrictions, to ensure no piles are ignited within any ‘high sensitivity zone’."
Crews continue to clear the Peace River valley for the Site C reservoir.
On Wednesday, high winds stirred up burning brush piles and started a grassfire at Bear Flat. The fire was extinguished by helicopter that was on site and is being monitored, Conway said.
"This can occur regardless of the time of year and our contractors are prepared for it with the necessary equipment on site to action any fire spreading from burn piles," he said.
Conway said burning will only take place during custom venting windows authorized under provincial regulations that are specific to Site C.
View an interactive map of the restrictions by clicking here.