News “It could get worse,”: PG Air Improvement Roundtable on smoky skies SHARE ON: Brendan Pawliw, staff Thursday, Jul. 8th, 2021 File Photo supplied by (MyPGNow staff) The air quality levels in Prince George continue to slide as wildfire smoke from the Chilako and Cutoff Creek blazes remains visible. The city’s Air Quality Health Index is sitting at a four rating, which is classified as a moderate health risk. Kim Menounos with the PG Air Improvement Roundtable told MyPGNow.com dealing with wildfire smoke isn’t anything new for our area. “We have seen in the past in previous years, some pretty terrible numbers in the PM 2.5 pollutant, which are the tiny particulates, which can get deep into your lungs in these smoky conditions.” She added the negative impacts from both wildfires might stick around for a while. “It possibly could get worse as the wildfires continue burning and if winds keep pushing the smoke towards our community then we will probably see those numbers rise. It is important to realize that exercising outdoors in the middle of the day or afternoon may not be the best for your health.” “The conditions right now are perfect for wildfires. At the roundtable, we understand wildfire smoke is a component of our air quality spectrum of pollutants that we are dealing with. It is sort of in the unmanageable spectrum so it is not an air pollutant we can aim to reduce.” Air Quality Meteorologist, Annie Seagram noted it’s still too difficult to pinpoint whether or not the smoke will linger the entire summer. “At this point, it is hard to say. Especially since it is so early in the season and lots of fires could still be starting in many parts of the province depending on the weather patterns we are seeing. Of course, we are coming out of a long, dry, hot period so a lot of the fuels are primed for burning.” “The smoke that is overhead from your area is part of a mixture of fires especially those to the north in the Williston area. It’s hard to say and we also have to keep in mind a couple of things such as the fact new fires can start as some places are susceptible to dry lightning.” The Chilako blaze is under 15-hundred hectares in size but crews have set up control lines and burn operations are being conducted. Meanwhile, the Cutoff Creek fire is 1,589 hectares in size, which has led to an Evacuation Alert from the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako. Province-wide, there are 211 fires burning, with 33 of those in the PG Fire Centre. On Wednesday, the BC Government issued health and safety tips around wildfire smoke. Some of the key points include: * Reduce the amount of time spent outdoors, stay hydrated and avoid rigorous outdoor activities. * Exercising outside when it is smoky can also be a health risk for some people. The harder you breathe, the more smoke you inhale. * When indoors, keep the air clean (windows/doors closed, no smoking, no burning fireplaces/candles/incense, no vacuuming). * During smoky times, you can keep your indoor air cleaner by closing your windows, recirculating air through a forced air system and using an air cleaner. * You can also consider using a portable air cleaner that uses HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filtration to remove smoke from the indoor air. * When in a vehicle, keep windows closed with air conditioning set to recirculate. * Visit places with air conditioning, such as shopping malls, community centres, swimming pools, public libraries, etc., as they often have cleaner, cooler air than smaller buildings or the outdoors, while following COVID-19 guidance for those communal spaces. * For those who require rescue medications, especially for respiratory conditions like asthma, ensure you have sufficient supplies on hand for when conditions are smoky.