A building fire in downtown Vernon, B.C., has generated an air quality advisory for parts of the North Okanagan due to high concentrations of fine particulate matter.
The health warning was issued by the Ministry of Environment just after 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, eight hours after the fire along the 2800 block of 30th Street was first discovered.
“These conditions are expected to persist until the fire is extinguished and weather conditions change,” said the ministry, which issued the warning in conjunction with Interior Health.
A restaurant, boutique, salon and costume shop are believed to be in the building that went up in flames.
The ministry says exposure to fine particulate matter can be a concern for individuals with chronic conditions such as asthma, COPD, heart disease and diabetes; as well as those with respiratory infections such as COVID-19, along with infants, pregnant people and older adults.
Anyone experiencing symptoms such as continuing eye or throat irritation, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, cough or wheezing should avoid further exposure and follow the advice of their health-care provider.
As of 11:30 a.m., Vernon had an air quality health index (AQHI) rating of 8, which is in the high-risk category.
The province’s AQHI ratings have four levels, on a 1-10 scale: low risk (1-3), moderate risk (4-6), high risk (7-10) and very high risk (10-plus).
For comparison, the Central Okanagan had an AQHI rating of 2 at 11:30 p.m.
Vernon’s PM2.5 rating was also considerably higher than anywhere else in B.C. at 38.2. Kelowna’s was low at 10.9.
The province’s PM2.5 rating measures airborne fine particles with diameters of 2.5 microns (millionths of a metre) and smaller.
More information on air quality in B.C. is available online.
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