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Heavy smoke blankets Okanagan; the rest of southern B.C. gets smoke haze

The sun is an eerie orange ball in the thick smoke as seen in this photo taken in West Kelowna, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015 and posted to Twitter.
Image Credit: Twitter/Ted Farr
August 23, 2015 - 9:56 AM

THOMPSON-OKANAGAN – Smoke from the huge forest fires burning in Washington State pumped into the southern Interior yesterday evening has been trapped in the valleys by a temperature inversion.

The Okanagan is getting the worst of the smoke with visibility down to less to a kilometre in some areas this morning, Aug. 23.

Environment Canada, along with Interior Health and B.C. Environment, have issued a smoky skies advisory for the Okanagan valley, along with the southern Boundary, Thompson, Nicola, Shuswap and Kootenay regions as a result of the thick smoke. 

The air quality index ranges between 14 and 16 in the South and Central Okanagan respectively; a very high health risk, according to the provincial Air Quality website. Air quality in Vernon is listed as “high health risk,” while the air quality index in Kamloops is currently low, but expected to be moderate later today. The readings were taken at 8 a.m. this morning.

“The majority of the thick smoke blanketing the B.C. southern Interior, especially the Okanagan, is drifting northward from those large fires burning in the United States,” B.C. Wildfire fire information officer Kayla Pepper says.

The smoke plume crept across the border yesterday evening thanks to strong southerly winds pushing it into the Okanagan.

“Then we had a temperature inversion which trapped the smoke in the valley bottoms,” Pepper says.

Meteorologist Chris Emond with Environment Canada says there is smoke haze reported from the lower mainland, through the Fraser Valley all the way through Kamloops, Salmon Arm and into the Kootenays.

And Emond says the smoke isn’t going anytime soon.

The flow is going to remain primarily from the south or southwest for the next several days, he says.

A screen shot of the forest fire smoke forecast from
A screen shot of the forest fire smoke forecast from
Image Credit:

“So as long as the fires are burning to the south they will continue to send the smoke northward,” Emond says.

He says the smoke may be less thick tomorrow as the flow shifts more to the southwest overnight, but there will still be haze.

Emond says there needs to be a big change in the weather pattern to scour the smoke out of the valleys.

“A strong front coming through would generally do that, but we don’t have any significant fronts coming through for the next several days,” he says. “Winds from the north would help.”

The forecast issued by agrees with Environment Canada’s assessment as it predicts forest fire smoke over the southern Interior for the next few days.

People are being warned to avoid strenuous outdoor activities, according to the smoky skies advisory.

The advisory says if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, contact your health care provider: difficulty in breathing, chest pain or discomfort, and sudden onset of cough or irritation of airways.

Exposure is particularly a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, and lung or heart disease, according to the advisory.

The heavy smoke is also creating issues for B.C. Wildfire as people call to report fires in the general smoky conditions.

“The smoke doesn’t necessarily mean there is a new wildfire locally,” Pepper says. “But if someone sees a distinct column of smoke or open flame, please report it.”

The view of the sun in a photo taken in Kelowna and posted to Twitter, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015.
The view of the sun in a photo taken in Kelowna and posted to Twitter, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015.
Image Credit: Twitter/Mark Shannon

To contact the reporter for this story, email Howard Alexander at To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

— This story was updated at 10:45 a.m., Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015 to add more areas covered by the smoky skies advisory.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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