Dodge ball in the Cominco gym was a great diversion for kids in the Summer Adventure Camp on Monday when heavy smoke in Trail forced the weekday program indoors. (Sheri Regnier photo)

Dodge ball in the Cominco gym was a great diversion for kids in the Summer Adventure Camp on Monday when heavy smoke in Trail forced the weekday program indoors. (Sheri Regnier photo)

Dodging heavy smoke in Trail

Recommendations for modifying outdoor activity and/or avoiding smoke are based on the “AQHI”

Heavy smoke is forcing those on two legs – and four – to take more of a breather indoors this week.

Until air quality improves, the City of Trail is cutting out landscape manicures and other strenuous outdoor activities as is a downtown doggie daycare.

“Major activities that are on hold include hand lawn mowing and weed whacking,” Public Works Director Chris McIsaac said.

“Crews will continue to collect park garbage, cut grass with mowers equipped with climate controlled cabs, and perform emergent works as necessary,” he explained.

“But we will be limiting exposure as much as possible.”

Although it is necessary for city employees to be outside while collecting garbage, all crews have been directed to limit exposure and to take breaks in the comfort their vehicle when necessary.

“Also, we have N95 particulate masks available for crews to wear at their discretion,” added McIsaac.

The conditions aren’t only affecting people outside.

Cameron Dixon, from Barks and Recreation Pet Services, says it is unhealthy for dogs, as it is for humans, to be outdoors for long periods of time in wildfire smoke.

“More so if they are exercising,” Dixon said.

Daycare dogs will still be walked, but the outdoor stints will be shortened to under 15 minutes and used for bathroom purposes only.

So what to do with a rambunctious pet when air quality is so poor?

“Often a decent alternative for dogs that are stuck indoors is to offer them puzzle toys,” Dixon said. “That will work their brain while they are potentially bored inside.”

As far as heavy industry is concerned, the smoke is affecting one aspect of operations at Teck Trail.

“The Linde plant, which provides oxygen to Teck Trail Operations, is currently shutdown due to poor air quality in the area,” says Community Relations Leader Catherine Adair. “As such, our lead smelting operation has been temporarily shut down; however zinc operations are not affected at this time.”

The situation varies day-to-day and regional air quality conditions are being actively monitored, Adair added.

“We continually evaluate all work activities to ensure the health and safety of our employees. Air quality conditions are considered as part of this evaluation.”

Over the weekend and up until press time on Monday, air quality in Trail was listed as “very high risk,” or 10+ on a scale of 1 to 10, by Environment Canada B.C.

The climate source was advising those with pre-existing medical conditions, children, and the elderly, to avoid strenuous outdoor activities. The general population was advised to reduce or re-schedule strenuous activities outdoors especially those experiencing symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation.

In B.C., recommendations for modifying outdoor activity and/or avoiding smoke are based on the “AQHI” or Air Quality Health Index.

This index takes levels of particulate matter into consideration, such as nitrogen and sulphur dioxide, as well as other gases that are known to negatively impact lung capacity, heart function, and blood flow.

At this time, there has been no significant increase in visits to Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital related to wildfire smoke.

“That being said, wildfires across the province have resulted in poor air quality in the region,” said Haley Allen, Interior Health communications consultant. “And it’s important that people take steps to seek cleaner air and reduce smoke exposure. Residents should be aware if they are at a higher risk, monitor their symptoms and follow the recommendations of the Air Quality Health Index.”

When the AQHI is moderate or higher (rated 4 or higher) Interior Health recommends that individuals consider reducing or avoiding strenuous activities and follow recommendations on the BC Air Quality website.

Anyone experiencing clinical symptoms is encouraged to consult with a health care provider. If symptoms are severe, seek emergency medical attention.

There were 151 fires burning in the Southeast Fire Centre as of Aug. 19. Eighty addresses were on evacuation alert in the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB), all located near the Santa Rosa, Toronto Creek and Lynch Creek fires.

“Winds will increase from the north and east through tonight into tomorrow, at times up to 40 kilometres per hour,” the district advised Sunday. “Cooler temperatures will prevail over what has been forecast due to smoke. Smoke will remain for days, now coming from all directions – fires in northern B.C., fires west of RDKB, and Washington / California.”

Fire danger is still extreme across the entire Kootenay Boundary despite cooler temperatures.