Air quality advisory and burning restrictions issued

The first air quality advisory of the season was issued last week. It is still in effect Tuesday for the Smithers area.

The first air quality advisory of the winter season was issued last week by the Ministry of Environment and the Northern Health Authority. It is still in effect Tuesday for the Smithers area.

The advisory came with open burning restrictions for Smithers, Telkwa, Houston, Burns Lake and surrounding areas.

“This is the first advisory related to wood smoke, which is the primary culprit. There’s also road dust as part of the particulate matter,” said Barry Watson, air quality meteorologist for the B.C. Ministry of Environment.

Smoke was trapped with no mixing of the air under a high pressure system according to Watson, who added that most of the smoke around Smithers was likely not from industrial slash pile burning.

“That would have been illegal because the venting index has not been what you need: good and fair… those conditions have not existed for a little while, so people shouldn’t be lighting up a fire,” said Watson.

The geography of the valley means this likely won’t be the last advisory this winter. Watson said he has more precise instrumentation to capture particulate matter, so there is potential for more advisories than in the past.

“That of course depends on the weather and how people mange their wood stoves primarily,” said Watson.

During advisories, people with chronic underlying medical conditions should postpone strenuous exercise until they are lifted.

No new fires may be initiated and no additional material may be added to existing fires while advisories are in effect. Smithers and Telkwa clean air bylaws also prohibit the use of wood-burning appliances when under an advisory, except for sole wood burning heat users.

Air quality information can be found at bcairquality.ca.