Smoke = emergency calls

Poor air quality persists throughout the southern half of British Columbia as tinder-dry conditions continue to fuel wildfires.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, deputy provincial health officer, said there has been a recent spike in emergency calls and hospital visits from people suffering from respiratory and other conditions related to the smoke and heat, particularly in the Lower Mainland.

"Depending on the day and the time of day, the increase can be from 20 per cent to 50 per cent more than we've seen in the past 10 years in the same area," Henry said.

The BC Ambulance Service is monitoring the situation and staffing accordingly, Henry said, and health authorities are reminding the public to take precautions such as exercising indoors to avoid health problems.

Although a heat wave affecting the south coast ended Friday, Environment Canada is maintaining an air-quality advisory that spans from eastern Vancouver Island to Elk Valley on the Alberta boundary and as far north as Prince George.

People with medical conditions, infants and the elderly are encouraged to stay indoors — ideally in air-conditioned environments — as well as keep any necessary medications handy and stay hydrated.

Officials are also warning drivers to take it slow and be on alert for stopped vehicles and wildlife, since the smoke has reduced visibility on roads in some parts of the province.

There are 125 wildfires burning across the province and officials say crews are gearing up for more fire activity as hot, dry conditions continue in the days ahead.

More BC News