While we are enjoying the beauty of spring in Kamloops, many of us are also dreading the potential for another problematic wildfire season.
The warm spring we are having has created drier conditions in the valley bottoms that can increase wildfire risk.
Historically, it is unusual to have three bad forest fire years in a row.
It’s still too early to tell whether recent blazes are harbingers of yet another record-breaking fire season for the province. The past two years saw four per cent of B.C.’s forested area lost to wildfires, according to Mike Flannigan, a professor with the Department of Renewable Resources and director of the Western Partnership for Wildland Fire Science at the University of Alberta.
Here’s how we can prepare for whatever this summer brings:
1. Do all you can to prevent wildfires from starting in the first place, as nearly half are caused by humans. Build and extinguish campfires safely. Carefully extinguish all cigarettes. Follow local regulations if you burn trash or debris.
2. Most people spend 90 per cent of their time indoors, so clean indoor air is important. Avoid burning candles and keep windows closed. You could consider purchasing a free-standing HEPA air filter to improve indoor air quality.
3. Check with your HVAC service provider in terms of the best furnace filters if you have a forced-air home system.
4. Know where to find cleaner air in your community if you cannot keep the air in your home safe. Shopping malls, libraries and other public buildings are considerations.
5. Check local air quality reports and listen and watch for news or health warnings about smoke. Environment Canada recommends that at Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) levels of 10+, people should reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors. You can check AQHI daily by putting “Kamloops AQHI” in your search engine.
6. If you are in a high-risk group, such as pregnant women, the elderly, young children and those with chronic lung or heart conditions, an AQHI of 7 to 10 should alert you to avoid exertional activities outdoors.
7. If you have to be outside on a high AQHI day, consider an N95 mask, which can help protect you from particulate matter. It has to be fitted properly. If you have a chronic lung or heart condition, you should ask your doctor about the increased work of breathing when using an N95 mask.
I hope some of this information is helpful in preparing for the summer ahead.
Along with the other members of Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment, I wish you a safe and enjoyable summer.
Dr. Grant Del Begio