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Close your windows, New West: Wildfire smoke is coming this way

Air quality and hot temperatures could combine for an unpleasant weekend in Metro Vancouver
New West smoky air 2020
This was the view over uptown New Westminster from Cumberland Street in September 2020, when wildfire smoke wreaked havoc with air quality in the city. We could see smoke return this weekend thanks to fires in the B.C. Interior and Washington State.

New Westminster residents who don’t have air conditioning will be wishing for it – again – by the end of this weekend.

On top of a heatwave that’s promising temperatures as high as 34C in the city, local residents are now facing the arrival of wildfire smoke from the B.C. Interior and Washington State.

Metro Vancouver has issued a warning about the expected arrival of smoke tomorrow. Modelling suggests that smoke from those fires may reach parts of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Regional District on Saturday, continuing to Sunday.

Smoke concentrations may vary widely across the region, as winds and temperatures change and wildfire behaviours shift, a Metro Vancouver press release notes.

An air quality advisory has been issued for eastern Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Regional District because of high concentrations of ground-level ozone.

That advisory does not yet include New Westminster, but current conditions at the regional monitoring station in New West show the air quality index has now crept up to 4, or moderate health risk. The major warning flag comes from ground-level ozone, which has exceeded its one-hour objective levels and has hit the “high” zone.

You can keep an eye on current local conditions at Metro Vancouver’s online AirMap.


To stay safe over the weekend, keep these tips in mind:

  • Avoid strenuous outdoor activities during mid-afternoon to early evening, when ozone levels are highest, especially if breathing feels uncomfortable. Consider choosing easier outdoor activities, such as walking instead of running, where you don't have to breathe as hard.
  • Take particular care if you are at higher risk. Exposure is particularly a concern for people with underlying conditions such as lung disease, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) including bronchitis and emphysema, as well as asthma, and/or diabetes; individuals with respiratory infections such as COVID-19; pregnant women and infants; children; outdoor workers (e.g. construction and agricultural workers); and older adults. Individuals who are socially marginalized may also be at elevated risk (e.g. people who are experiencing homelessness or are underhoused).
  • Stay cool and hydrated. Indoor spaces with HEPA air cleaner filtration and air conditioning may offer relief from both heat and air pollution, but be sure to observe COVID-19 protocols.
  • Consider creating a comfortable space at home with a portable air conditioner (if you do not have central air conditioning).
  • If you can’t properly cool down at home, seek relief at the City of New Westminster’s cooling centres. Queensborough Community Centre and Century House are open 24/7 (yes, you can sleep there; take your own blankets and pillow if you decide to do so). The New Westminster Public Library is also open extended hours (10 a.m. to 9 p.m.), and Anvil Centre offers a cooling centre from noon to midnight. Anyone who needs help getting to a cooling centre can call Royal City Taxi at 604-521-6666 for a free ride within New West.
  • If you are experiencing symptoms such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing, seek prompt medical attention. Call 9-1-1 in the case of an emergency.
  • Stay tuned to the City of New Westminster website for full cooling tips and news regarding cooling centres, pools and spray parks.


Source: Metro Vancouver and City of New Westminster