There are currently about 13,000 farm animals in areas affected by wildfire evacuation alerts or orders, with 250 livestock producers moving or protecting cattle, sheep, horses and goats. (Black Press files

B.C. wildfire smoke hazard temporary, most don’t need masks

Provincial Health Officer says staying indoors best strategy

Wildfire smoke is a temporary irritant, not as bad as long-term exposure to smog in big cities such as Beijing, says Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer for B.C.

Henry joined the provincial government’s wildfire update report Wednesday to offer practical advice for people avoiding smoke that has settled over much of the province. She said staying indoors and limiting exertion during heavy smoke periods is better for most people than wearing a mask.

Dust masks are not effective against the fine particulates generated by forest fires, and heavier masks may further restrict breathing for people with respiratory ailments, Henry said. B.C. hospitals are reporting a significant increase in visits to emergency by people with chronic illnesses.

B.C. had 16 new fire starts Tuesday, bringing the number of active fires to 563. Some rain is expected in northern B.C. later this week, with more extensive rain possible by Sunday to help ease conditions, said Ryan Turcotte of the B.C. Wildfire Service.

RELATED: Winds a concern in Kootenay fire effort

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B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said Wednesday there are about 13,000 livestock in areas affected by fire evacuation orders and alerts, with 250 producers currently affected in the Northwest, Cariboo and Southeast regions. The province is assisting with the relocation of cattle, which are most of the livestock affected along with some sheep, horses and goats.

In the Agassiz area, two dairy operations and a turkey farm have been spraying water to prepare for the advance of the Mount Hicks fire north of the community. That fire has been burning for nearly two weeks in steep terrain, but has recently burned back on itself to reduce the risk of property damage, Popham said.

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