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Smoke brings ‘very unhealthy’ air to South Okanagan-Similkameen

The smoke and heat are expected to continue through Thursday
Smoke has blanketed the valley Wednesday morning and yet some still were playing tennis. (Monique Tamminga Western News)

The South Okanagan and Similkameen are socked in by heavy smoke Wednesday morning. The smell of smoke is heavy in the air.

Environment Canada issued a smoky skies bulletin Wednesday, Aug. 16, and according to the website World’s Air Quality Index, the air quality rating for Penticton is 251 — rated “very unhealthy.” In comparison, the air quality in Burnaby on the Coast is rated at 15 and Edmonton, Alta. is rated at good at 44. Only China is higher at 279.

The South Okanagan and Similkameen are likely to be impacted by wildfire smoke over the next 24 to 48 hours, said Environment Canada.

Along with the air quality problem, the heat wave will continue until Thursday, bringing temperatures upwards of 35 C.

The smoke is coming from two fires south of Keremeos that blew up Tuesday night, sending a huge plume of smoke that could be seen as far as Kelowna and caused 12 properties to go on evacuation alert around 8 p.m.

At midnight, the evacuation alert was changed to an order.

While told to leave the area, the growth of the blaze is dangerous to the point where the RDOS is also advising anyone at Cathedral Lakes Provincial Park and the Snowy Protected Area to shelter-in-place. Those fleeing the wildfires should check in at the Keremeos Victory Hall.

Both the Crater Creek and Gillanders Creek wildfires have been burning since mid-July but suffered a huge increase in activity on Tuesday with ash from the fires falling heavily into Oliver and Osoyoos.

READ MORE: Shelter-in-place orders to remains in effect due to wildfires outside Keremeos

Wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone’s health even at low concentrations, said Environment Canada.

People with lung disease (such as asthma) or heart disease, older adults, children, pregnant people, and people who work outdoors are at higher risk of experiencing health effects caused by wildfire smoke.

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Monique Tamminga

About the Author: Monique Tamminga

Monique brings 20 years of award-winning journalism experience to the role of editor at the Penticton Western News. Of those years, 17 were spent working as a senior reporter and acting editor with the Langley Advance Times.
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