Many parts of the province, including the Columbia Valley, are under open burning restrictions announced by the provincial Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy yesterday.
The announcement was made in collaboration with B.C. public health officials and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and came early on Thursday, March 26. It applies only to open burning, not to campfires, covers all “high smoke sensitivity zones” across B.C., will be in place until Wednesday, April 15 and comes in response to the COVIDL-19 pandemic, as part of ongoing efforts to reduce air pollution in populated areas.
“It’s for areas with what they call high density smoking holding. That means anywhere where smoke doesn’t dissipate very well. Invermere is one of these areas,” Invermere fire chief Jason Roe told the Pioneer, adding that local residents can still have campfires.
A provincial Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy press release on the matter outlined that there is strong evidence that exposure to air pollution increases susceptibility to respiratory viral infections such as COVID-19, because it decreases immune function.
According to the ministry, deterioration in air quality may lead to more COVID-19 infections overall, and may lead to more cases of severe COVID-19 infections.
“Evidence suggests that air pollution from combustion sources is most strongly associated with increased risk of viral infection, particularly vehicle emissions and biomass burning,” read the press release. “While the focus should remain on social distancing to prevent the spread of infection and reduce the number of cases, keeping our air as clean as possible will also help to protect the population during this difficult period.”
No new open fires may be initiated and no additional material may be added to existing open fires.
For more information visit www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/air-land-water/ air.