Northern Health has issued a smoky skies bulletin for the Peace region and sections of northern B.C.
The air quality index in Fort St John is currently rated at 4 and above, and smoke created by nearby wildfires are expected to move into Fort St. John and the surrounding areas over the next few days.
Smoke concentrations will vary as winds, fire behaviour, and temperatures change - avoid strenuous outdoor activities.
FireSmoke Canada says the smoke started moving on Wednesday morning from a blaze near Beatton River, while smoke from an estimated 4,800-hectare fire at Buckinghorse River will combine and also move in.
The fire, discovered Monday and caused by lightning, has grown to an estimated 4,800 hectares and is still listed as out of control.
The Alaska Highway is closed in both directions between Sikanni Chief Road and Prophet River Sub Road for 59.3 kilometres. BC Wildfire Service and RCMP are on site and will pilot essential traffic through when it is safe to do so.
The Peace River Regional District has issued an evacuation notice in response, and the wildfire is believed to have been caused by lightning.
The Alaska Highway was briefly reopened this morning by Buckinghorse after it was closed late Tuesday. DriveBC reports the highway has since reclosed.
The wildfire at Beatton River is listed as out of control at an estimated 1,200 hectares, and is believed to have been caused by lightning. Another lightning-caused fire at Trutch Mountain is listed at 80 hectares.
The smoky skies bulletin includes the following regions:
B.C. North Peace River - includes the City of Fort St John and all communities along Hwy 97 extending from Farmington to Pink Mountain; Hwy 29 including Moberly Lake, Hudson’s Hope; also includes Rolla, Clayhurst and Goodlow
Fort Nelson - includes Fort Nelson, Muskwa, Prophet River, Buckinghorse River, Sikanni Chief, Hwy 77 north to the Yukon border,
Williston - includes McLeod Lake, Mackenzie and Williston Lake
During smoky conditions
• Stop or reduce your activity level if breathing becomes uncomfortable or you feel unwell.
• Stay cool and drink plenty of fluids.
• If you have asthma or other chronic illness, carry any rescue (fast-acting) medications with you at all times and activate your personal care plan that has been designed with your family physician.
• Make sure that children and others who cannot care for themselves follow the same advice.
Monitor your symptoms
• People respond differently to smoke. Mild irritation and discomfort are common, and usually disappear when the smoke clears.
• Exposure to wildfire smoke and the virus that causes COVID-19 can both result in respiratory symptoms such as a dry cough, sore throat, or difficulty breathing. Use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to help determine whether you need further assessment or testing for COVID-19.
• If you are unsure whether you need medical care, call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1.
• If you are experiencing difficulty in breathing, chest pain or discomfort, or a severe cough, contact your health care provider, walk-in clinic, or emergency department. If you are having a medical emergency, call 9-1-1. Tips to reduce your smoke exposure
• Smoke levels may be lower indoors but will still be elevated, so stay aware of your symptoms even when you are indoors.
• Running a commercially available HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter can improve indoor air quality in the room where the device is located.
• If you have a forced air heating/cooling system in your home, it may help to change the filter and set the fan to run continuously.
• Reduce indoor air pollution sources such as smoking, burning incense, and frying foods.
• If travelling in a car with air conditioning, keep the windows up and the ventilation set to recirculate.
• If you are very sensitive to smoke, consider moving to another location with cleaner air, but be aware that conditions can change rapidly.
• Maintaining good overall health is a good way to prevent health effects resulting from short-term exposure to air pollution.