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Wildfire smoke to affect much of B.C. until fall: meteorologist

A special air quality statement warns of the smoke stretching from the Interior of B.C. to Yukon and the Alberta boundary
A wildfire burns on the side of a mountain in Lytton, B.C., Thursday, July 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Much of central and eastern British Columbia is under a special weather bulletin warning of smoky skies as wildfires rage across the province.

Environment Canada issued a special air quality statement warning of the smoke for the next few days in areas stretching from the Interior of B.C. to Yukon and the Alberta boundary.

Doug Lundquist, a meteorologist with the Meteorological Service of Canada, said B.C. residents should be prepared for smoky skies to linger into the fall.

“We’re going to see this for months,” he said in an interview. “There’s smoke all over, from Alaska down to Mexico. All we need … is the wind to go the wrong direction and bring it back up from other locations.”

Four areas in the province also remain under a heat warning including the Fraser Canyon where the village of Lytton was destroyed by fire last month, with predicted daytime highs of up to 38 C.

Lundquist said the extreme heat that gripped much of the province and shattered records is a “once in my lifetime” event.

“I’ve done this job for 34 years and I don’t remember seeing anything as extraordinary as this,” he said. “The smoke is coming a month earlier than we’ve seen before and we’ve never, ever had the heat like we’ve had at the end of June.”

The BC Wildfire Service said much of the central part of the province is at extreme risk of wildfires with more than 300 fires burning. Two dozen of them are highly visible or pose a potential threat to public safety.

More than 1,760 square kilometres of land has burned since the wildfire season started on April 1. The wildfire service said in a statement that more than 98 per cent of that area is from wildfires crews are currently battling.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has convened the government’s incident response group partly because of the wildfire situation in B.C. to discuss preparations the federal government can take. The government said in a statement that Trudeau and cabinet ministers who are part of the group have agreed to closely monitor the situation and deal quickly with any requests for help from their provincial counterparts.

Wildfires have also forced closure of major highways in the province, including Highway 97 north of 70 Mile House and Highway 20 in the Anahim Lake region.

The province is asking residents to remain cautious and be responsible in preventing possible fires after the wildfire service, RCMP and the Kamloops fire department responded to five suspicious blazes Tuesday night, all believed to have been caused by humans.

Nick Wells, The Canadian Press

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