Wildfire Smoke Advisory in effect

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A Wildfire Smoke Advisory is in effect for the entire east and south coasts of Vancouver Island, including the Cowichan Valley area.

The advisory comes as smoke continues to obscure the sun and ash sifts down, creating a thin layer on cars, houses and gardens. Many residents watched the smoke roll in on Sunday morning, the haze turning the sunlight into an eerie orange glow.

The closest wildfire is burning north of Ladysmith, but smoke is blanketing the area from other fires burning on Vancouver Island, and even Washington state.

The advisory has been issued by the provincial Ministry of Environment in collaboration with Island Health.

“Smoke concentrations will vary widely as winds, fire behaviour and temperatures change,” the news release said. “This situation is expected to persist until meteorological conditions change.”

People should avoid strenuous outdoor activities and contact their health care provider if they experience difficulty breathing, chest pain or discomfort, or sudden onset of cough or irritation of the airways. Particularly vulnerable are infants, the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, lung or heart disease.

The ministry and Island Health also offered tips to protect your health, including staying cool and drinking plenty of fluids, considering visiting somewhere with cooler, filtered air such as a shopping mall and keeping an eye on your health.

The province is also reminding residents to be careful with fire safety, as the fire hazard rating is extreme through much of the province including Cowichan. One hundred and eighty-four fires are being fought across the province, and there are nine evacuation alerts in effect, impacting over 800 homes the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations reported.

Twenty-seven new fires started in B.C. on Sunday. Campfires are banned, as is open burning. Officials are also imploring smokers not to be careless with cigarette butts, particularly in dry grass along roadsides.

For general information about smoke and your health, contact HealthLink BC available toll free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 8-1-1, or at: www.healthlinkbc.ca/kbaltindex.asp.

Real-time air quality information in B.C. is available at www.bcairquality.ca