An air quality advisory might be issued in Metro Vancouver later this weekend due to smoke from the devastating wildfires in the B.C. interior.
Kelowna has declared a State of Emergency as thousands of residents were forced to flee following the widespread McKinley and Clifton fires.
As of Friday, Aug. 18, there are 366 active fires burning across the province and numerous evacuation orders and alerts in place.
A cold front moved south down the province overnight Thursday, bringing high winds and dry lightning. Strong winds gusting up to 60 km/her could increase the spread of the fire, according to the BC Wildfire Service.
Currently, the air quality map shows that most of the Lower Mainland has a level two or "low" risk to health, meaning that there are no issues with the current air quality.
But the British Columbia Air Quality Health Index shows the health risk may increase to a level four or a "moderate" level Saturday, climbing to a level five by Saturday night.
Environment Canada Meteorologist Yimei Li says smoke may arrive in the region as early as Saturday but it is more likely to arrive on Sunday or even Monday morning.
"A northeasterly flow might bring smoke to the region but we are not sure how bad it is going to be," she told V.I.A., noting that Saturday's Vancouver weather forecast includes increasing temperatures.
Metro Vancouver weather forecast
If the air quality worsens to a "moderate" risk -- anywhere from a level four to six -- at-risk populations should "consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous activities" outside if they experience symptoms. The general population won't need to change their behaviour unless they experience throat irritation or coughing.
Depending on what happens with the fires, however, there could be a "high" risk to health in the Lower Mainland. In that case, the general population may need to rethink outdoor activities.
Metro Vancouver tweeted an image of the air quality across B.C., highlighting that the extensive smoke could move into other areas if the winds change.
#Wildfire activity is picking up with extensive smoke in the BC Interior. Winds are keeping this smoke out of our region for now, but this may change by the weekend. For AQ updates: https://t.co/qMdy6g4vKW pic.twitter.com/bmA5XiEzkn— Metro Vancouver (@MetroVancouver) August 17, 2023
While smoke could make its way into the Lower Mainland, a low-pressure system should clear it out by Monday evening, Yimei noted.
"Even if we have smoke over the weekend, it will likely clear with this changing flow pattern and some possible showers," she said.
If you experience symptoms such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing, seek prompt medical attention. Call 911 in the case of an emergency.