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Wildfire smoke from Cariboo blows into Okanagan, Shuswap: Environment Canada

Smoke expected to bring poor air quality to the regions on Friday
Smoky skies captured in Kelowna Friday, Sept. 2, 2022. (Ease and Flow Yoga/Facebook)

Environment Canada says widespread smoke and poor air quality will hit the Okanagan and Shuswap later this week, presenting a “high” health risk to the public during the afternoon on Friday, July 14.

In its forecast for the day, the federal weather agency says most of the region will experience smoky skies with temperatures of up to 32 C.

But experts believe Kelowna and Vernon will get the worse of it, with a change in wind pattern on Friday morning expected to bring wildfire smoke from the Cariboo area.

Johnson Zhong, a meteorologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada, says smoke on the north end of Kelowna and into Vernon will measure at a minimum of ‘7’ on the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI), presenting a “high” risk to the public.

“Right now, it looks like that will start Friday afternoon until the evening hours and then it will start easing off and shift more to the southwest (of B.C.),” the meteorologist said.

Although Penticton and much of the South Okanagan, including Osoyoos, is expected to experience “widespread smoke” on Friday, Environment Canada says poor air quality will present higher health risks in the North Okanagan.

Amid a slew of new wildfires, multiple evacuation orders and alerts have been issued within the Cariboo and Prince George fire centres since last week. One blaze of note, the Townsend Creek wildfire, located 2.5 kilometres east of Margaret Lake.

It is more than 900 hectares in size, as of Wednesday, July 12.

Zhong says the AQHI in the area is currently measured at ‘10’ or more, which presents a “very high” health risk to the public.

“The further north you go (in the Okanagan), the better chance you have of getting worse air quality because of the wildfires northwest of Cariboo,” Zhong said.

Environment Canada is urging people to protect themselves by reducing their exposure to wildfire smoke. This includes limiting outdoor activities, if possible, and preventing smoke from entering homes.

“During heavy smoke conditions, everyone is at risk regardless of their age or health,” the federal weather agency writes in a notice.

READ ALSO: Evacuation orders issued for properties at Eliguk Lake, Townsend Creek, Pelican Lake